Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Open Letter to Pastors and Christian Leaders
...are we playing politics with God?

Dear Co-laborers in the Lord Jesus Christ:

In the wake of the "Obamanation" and ecumenical co-belligerent social gospel that we all witnessed by Rick Warren at his well-intentioned AIDS conference this past week, I offer you the following.

Matthew Mead, one of my favorite and most poignant Puritan authors, powerfully says, "repent not because you are moral or civil; repent because you're no better than moral or civil."

Those words pierce like an arrow in the heart of politicizing the local church to try and win the cultural wars. Many in the Evangelical Co-Belligerence (ECB) camp casually suggest that we should partner with anyone who we may find affinity on an agreed social cause; and in doing so may win the day over the moral maladies and cultural crisis' that plague our world. This "partnership" is without foundation on the truth of God's Word, the person or gospel of Jesus Christ, or His people. Some will even twist our Lord's command to "love your neighbor as yourself" to mean, join hands with your neighbor regardless of who they may be or what they believe to proof-text a "people of faith morality" in our world, absent of the gospel, to conquer the ills of society around the globe. Furthermore, this veneer of spirituality (for the emphasis has been engaging the church on social reform--not on proclaiming, applying and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ) is so the global society is exposed to what is right, pure, moral and good; and therefore, thus producing a more congenial and affable global community in which to live. This is absolutely fool-hearty beloved. We live in a fallen world (Romans 3:10-18)) and America is a pagan nation in need not of political-social-cultural-moral reform, but regeneration through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, in order for ECBers to do this, they must not call "all men everywhere to repent", but create alliances with those same unsaved individuals to establish this "moral cultural family values of acceptable rightness" (with approval by the general populace) that adds to the betterment of all in society. This is the sad and misguided "end all" of co-belligerent thinking and philosophy. The problem for believers in adopting this kind of political strategery in fighting cultural moral slippage, is that it forces the church to reprioritize its mission from "go into all the world and make disciples" to "go into all the world and strong arm politicians so that we can create through the legislative process a surface only pseudo-moral righteousness absent of the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ to stay off the tide of moral decay in our nation."

Baptistic Reconstructionism?
Some are content with unsaved people staying unsaved just as long as they can live as "moral" while remaining unsaved, then the bane and the blight of what seems to now be a movement of "Baptistic Reconstructionism" - being focused on social reform absent of the gospel of regeneration -- is unbiblical. The proponents of ECB deny this claim of course--but the proof is in the proclamation.

They say they are for the gospel and for cultural impact too; but strangely we never, and I do mean never, hear them herald the gospel to the unregenerate while doing an interview with Larry King, Sean Hannity or Chris Matthews. But, they are unashamed and unembarrassed to champion boldly a political social moral cause affecting society at large--and doing this with those who do not know the Lord (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). Why are their tongues silent about Christ and His truth? Why are they not as bold as lions with the gospel of Jesus Christ as they are in their call to social renewal for a better societal morality? Are they ashamed of the gospel or do they really not have confidence in its transforming and sanctifying power in the life of the believer that will be a witness of Christ in all areas of daily life? (cp, Titus 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:11-14).

An Unlikely Evangelical Co-Belligerent
The roots of the this kind of thinking we can, in part, trace back to a brother of profound mind and contribution to the cause of Christ--Dr. Carl F. H. Henry. Though doctrinally astute, he confusingly said the following in an interview with Dr. Russell Moore, of The Henry Institute, just a few years ago shortly before his home-going: "The mission of the church is to embrace both evangelism and cultural impact. To neglect either one is catastrophic. This is the lesson of both Protestant liberalism and fundamentalism.."

This is problematic for two key reasons:

1.) There are no Scriptural texts which says that the mission of the church is for cultural impact--NONE. This denies the authority of sola Scriptura and renders Protestants no better than the Romanists.

2.) The 'lesson" is neither the polarized extremes of Protestant liberalism (a social gospel) nor fundementalism (an isolated gospel). The lesson is: what is biblical Christianity and what does the Lord command His church to do and be for His glory while on this earth? How does He instruct us to live in a pagan society? And what partnerships and/or alliances does the Lord condone in our desire to see real change come to the world around us? (See Titus 3:1-8 for clear answers to these questions).
All ECB adherents at this point theologically/biblically stutter; for to speak clearly from the Word of God about these matters leaves them silent.

Again, as brilliant and significant a Christian thinker and writer as Dr. Henry was, he severely missed the mark here. Never once, as far as I know, did he qualify his assertions biblically. No one is above the scrutiny, standard, plumbline and authority of God's holy Word (Acts 17:9-11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 19:7-10; 1 Tim. 6:1-6).

There can be no real "cultural impact" apart from the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord; the living out of that regenerated life in Christ (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:8); being "salt and light" to a fallen world (Matt. 5:13-20); to the times in which God has sovereignly placed us (Romans 9); to be used for His glory and for His purposes (2 Tim. 1:10-17ff; 2:20ff); according to the power of the Spirit and strengthened in the grace which is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Roms. 15:13; 2 Tim. 2:1).

Where Have all The Evangelists Gone?
So then why are gifted men of God trading their voices for the gospel to the triviality of cultural issues? Why bring an unbiblical emphasis on what is temporal rather than what is eternal?

I truly believe that we are on The New Downgrade because of this unhealthy, imbalanced, Evangelical Co-Belligerence that is lacking of any biblical authority whatsoever (Justice Sunday marked its beginning). I can say this with certainty; for any of its architects and lucid champions have never presented any biblical foundation whatsoever, for its existence and functionality. And these are not men who are slight of mind and lax in their theological acumen; but those who have proven in the past to be gifted preachers of God's Word. However, on this issue, all that our brothers offer us is a deafening silence from the pages of Scripture.

It is dangerous, brothers, to play politics with God and even unwittingly deny Sola Scriptura for the pragmatic purpose of cultural impact, political reform, or trying to claim a "Christianized" new morality to push back the depraved actions of unregenerate people--and once again, absent of the gospel (Eph. 2:1-5). Evangelical Co-Belligerence is culturally impotent in dealing with the depraved hearts, minds and souls of a pagan world. Satan is pleased when any discourse designed for Christ and His gospel is turned into a political rally to pacify unsaved people in their sin while at the same time creating a superficial morality that is not based upon the salvific work of Christ alone! The tragic result is unredeemed people are left to feel comfortable and safe in a “Christian morality” -- yet, they are still lost, still dead in their sins, still sons of disobedience, still drowning in their depravity, and still left hopelessly incarcerated under the eternal punishment of God’s holy wrath (John 3:36).

A Plea and a Prayer
Oh my dear brothers, may we champion His truth and His gospel; may we never be ashamed of its transforming power to quicken the dead soul to eternal life; may we go to a lost world not arguing politics, but proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Cor. 4:5); and may we say with the Apostle Paul, "woe is me if I do not preach the gospel."

In closing, here is a powerful prayer by A.W. Tozer that he prayed at the beginning of his ministry. by God's grace, may the truth of these words reignite our hearts with uncompromised devotion for the Lord, His Word, His gospel, His church and for a lost world.

The Prayer of a Minor Prophet
"O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou art about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, my Lord, Thou hast stooped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man taketh this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine, but Thine. Thou hast said, 'I knew thee - I ordained thee - I sanctified thee,' and Thou hast also said, 'Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.' Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done. Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus loose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offerings.

Help me to remember that I am prophet not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to the crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or, if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And, if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.

Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee, therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with Thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen."

Let Us Take Heaven by Storm...
His Unworthy Servant in His Unfailing Love,
Steve Camp
Galatians 1:6-10


dreamcoat boy said...

The exact same thing has been on my mind lately. Ironically i posted on the same topic last week. I thought I was the only person who was rubbed the wrong way by churches on a conquest to "fight poverty" or "impact culture". It's encouraging to see that I am not alone in this thinking, and that there are others who see that it isn't commanded in the Bible.

Jimmie W. Kersh said...

If my memory serves me correctly, didn't someone once say that, "you will always have the poor." Maybe I am mistaken.

Marcia said...

"Taking Heaven by Storm" was the first
Steve Camp music I heard. I had the cassette tape. : )

There are no Scriptural texts which says that the mission of the church is for cultural impact--NONE. This denies the authority of sola Scriptura and renders Protestants no better than the Romanists.

Thanks for clarifying that.

Bhedr said...

Amen. Good letter with a good prayer by Tozer.

David B. Hewitt said...

Brother Steve,

Excellent post, getting to the very heart of the matter I think.

It reminds me of a movie I saw a short while back called "Time Changer." It was a Christian movie put out that has, as its thesis, the horrible effects of trying to put forth a Christian morality of sorts while divorcing it from the Name and Gospel of Christ.

May God deliver us from such foolishness and restore us afresh to Himself for the proclamation of the Gospel!


john said...

I'm on board when we talk about not using the pulpit as a political stump. That doesn't just happen in the liberal realm - but also in conservative churches.

As for everyone talking about not having any responsibility to the culture we live in, I couldn't disagree more. The early church took care of those less fortunate. In James, we read that true religion takes care of the widow and orphan. Matthew 25 talks of caring for "the least of these".

Jimmie - the verse you're talking about is NOT an excuse for you or I to forget about the poor. That line IS attributed to Christ, but He was defending the prostitute's gift of very expensive perfume that she poured on His feet.

The disciples were upset with her - saying that the perfume could be used for the poor. Jesus' point was - I'm only here on earth a short time. The poor will always be here for you to take care of. This statement was meant for a very specific time and audience. Since Jesus is no longer physically here on earth, I think it no longer applies.

So - if you're going to pour your riches on Jesus' feet, then I guess you're cool. Otherwise, you might read all of Matthew 25 and see what happens to those who forget the poor.

TogetherOne.neT said...

Amen to Tozier's Prayer. Thanks for posting this beauty. Powerful and humbling. Bless you to Bro. Camp.

Prophet R