Christianity, the Church and Cutural Engagement in a New Dark Age: Part One
Rod Dreher's book 'The Benedict Option' addresses it, as does Anthony Esolen's book 'Out of the Ashes' as do many other books, blogs and articles by thoughtful Christians and theologians. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted Dreher on one of his recent podcasts and the two discussed 'The Benedict Option' and how Christians should respond to our current age.
I highly recommend the book to stimulate your thinking, by the way. Like Mohler, I do not agree with all of Dreher's prescriptions, but his analysis is exceptionally accurate. In that podcast, Mohler and Dreher discussed the new Dark Age the United States has now entered.
This Dark Age is understood in light of the prevailing philosophies: Hedonism, relativism, subjecivism, emotivism, secularism, nihilism, dadaism, individualism and a host of other 'isms.' It is understood in light of the rise of the New Atheists, the 'nones' (those who claim no religious affiliation), the growth of paganism and multiple religions and the rapid decline of Biblical Christianity and the exponential growth of heretical strains off Bibliclal Christianity.
Truth is now determined by feeling and political correctness has become the new standard for morality, the irony being that what is politically correct now may be incorrect in a matter of months.
We are in a turbulent time when historical definitions (throughout human history) are being redefined: marriage, gender to begin with, and, at the same time, we are also experiencing increasing hostility to Biblical Christianity.
The problem for the early Christians before the fall of the Roman Empire was not that they worshipped Jesus. Rome was fine with any and all God's (gods). The problem was these early Christians would not acknowledge other gods and that included the claims of Caesar to be divine.
The church is experiencing a measure of this today and the responses are not encouraging. Whereas the early church refused to burn incense to Caesar and therefore embraced persecution and suffering, many in the the American church are more than willing to do the equivalent: to alter the message ever so slightly to appease Caesar. Such churches today have the mistaken belief that if they go along to get along with the culture, that all will be fine. It will not. The culture (Caesar) will always demand more changes. And, as the church abandons Scripture to please Caesar (the culture), it denies Christ and the Gospel.
We are either counter cultural or we are shaped by culture, following Christ or denying Him. People want a middle ground because we don't want to experience rejection. There is no middle ground because that middle ground means compromising our faith.
So, how then should we live? This is the first of several posts on the matter. For now, let us consider a few important things:
1) Christians must be shaped by the Word and Spirit, not the culture and spirit of the age. Our minds must think clearly, biblically. That may be costly, but it is what we are called to in our Christian faith (Romans 12:1,2)
2) We must speak the truth in love. We cannot sit back and scream 'unclean' at a culture that is collapsing under the weight of secularism. We must speak the truth in love and that means not compromising and at the same time, caring for those who oppose us, our Savior and the Message.
3) We must know how to speak to the culture. Acts 17 is a marvelous example: Paul in Athens is distressed by the idolatry and paganism. As he begins talking with the Athenian philosophers, we see something interesting: Paul knew enough of their culture to quote their own poets and philosophers. Paul didn't withdraw from culture (as some would do today). He was in but not of, and knew that even in the darkest of cultures there are bridges to share the gospel. We must be students of Scripture first, and then, we must be students of the culture so we can speak grace and truth and love into it. This does not mean we become like the culture, rather it means we understand it.
4) We must remember: Jesus has authority over all things. He is greater than anything or anyone in our culture. If we abide in Him, this should give us comfort-we have a King and a strength this world does not understand. He is our victory.
5) We must pray. These are times to slow down a bit and pray a lot more. We need the wisdom and power that only come from God.
The Age may be Dark, but the light shines in the darkness-remember that! And the darkness cannot and will not overcome the light.
Grace to You,