The book of Isaiah is known for a lot of different things. I was reminded recently that nearly 1/3 of Isaiah’s prophecy has to do with God’s warning to His people not to trust in other nations for their security. Again and again, through the various “oracles” or woes upon the nations Isaiah reminds his listeners that they must place their trust in God alone or perish.
God issues a warning to his people at the very outset:
“Listen oh heavens and hear oh earth; for the Lord speaks, Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against me.”
In what ways have God’s people revolted against Him? God’s people have revolted against Him in the sense that they look for security in things or people rather than in God alone. Today, God’s people are busy being religious but not godly, spiritual but not filled with the Holy Spirit.
Those of you that have spent any amount of time “culture” and/or “church” watching understand that seismic shifts in perspective and practice are underway. Some within the Christian community have embraced these changes as a means to reach the culture.
Unfortunately, what is being sacrificed in order to reach the culture is the only thing that can save them – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The so-called culture wars that America is in the throes of currently, are nothing more than a conflict between Protestant Evangelical Christianity that remains rooted in the authority of the Bible, and a government that has taken it upon itself to create and subsequently mandate morals based on humanistic and thus atheistic concepts that elevate mankind and relegate faithful expressions of Christianity to the realm of personal and subjective expressions not welcomed in the public square.
This is an interesting development to me. All information is welcomed to join the cacophony except that information that calls individuals and nations to accountability before a holy and righteous God. I am left to surmise that a message of peace and hope interrupts and brings too much order to the confusion.
Back to this point though – we live in a time that is aptly characterized as the age of information. We have information at our finger tips 24/7/365.
What escapes the understanding of most people and unfortunately large numbers of Christians is that this constant barrage of information is not “value-neutral.”
What do I mean by that? I mean to say that all information conveys a viewpoint, a perspective, an opinion, and often, some truth. We cannot escape the fact that communication is a vehicle for these things. Postmodernists of course insist that truth is socially or individually constructed, and is not objective in any sense and therefore is not suited as a foundation for the construction of a metanarrative. This of course is a very underhanded way of pushing Christian theism to the sidelines. More about that later.
My point is this brothers and sisters – we live in an information age where the exchange of information, i.e. communication, is dispensed much like groceries. Grocery stores are still called markets in some places and I like this picture when it comes to information. Americans live in a culture that is controlled through a “market place of ideas” that functions in part to filter and disseminate information.
And much like our grocery shopping habits, we must pay attention to the labels and nutritional value information as it relates to the content of what we choose to believe.
In fact I believe that our apathy toward the nutritional contents label of the ideas, philosophies, and politics Christians in America have unwittingly absorbed, is in large measure responsible for the sad state of the Protestant Evangelical Christian church today. I make this distinction (Protestant, Evangelical) because most of the so-called church falling outside of these descriptors is already apostate.
It was Neil Postman, who in 1985 first brought to my attention the sometimes symbiotic relationship between media and culture in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
“. . . it is, I believe, a wise and particularly relevant supposition that the media of communication available to a culture are a dominant influence on the formation of the culture’s intellectual and social preocuupations” (p.9).
My plea today is therefore two-fold. One, I call on all Bible-believing Christians, the remnant found within confessing, professing, Protestant Evangelicalism, to return to our first love – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, I call on these same Christians to once again take up the mantle of sound biblical scholarship. We have wasted so much spiritual capital formulating fuzzy, anemic, egalitarian, ecumenistic “Christianity-light,” so that today, the teaching of sound biblical doctrine and faithful Christian living according to the Scriptures is seen as radical, narrow-minded, unloving, and according to the main stream media, “fundamentalism.” That’s not a compliment by the way.
We must continue to insist that ideas have consequences, and not all ideas are equal as evidenced by the myriad consequences manifested. Douglas Groothuis makes this point clear in his article entitled “Tolerance, Pluralism, and the Christian,” where he says:
“. . . while we should be egalitarians when it comes to people we must be elitists when it comes to ideas – and not the reverse. All ideas – whether religious or ethical or whatever – are not equally true. Americans have freedom of religion but this hardly renders all religion right or reasonable. The Branch Davidians were neither. It is nothing less than intellectual suicide to presume that the perennially profound issues of life – concerning the existence and nature of God, the nature of humanity, spiritual salvation, etc. – have no right and wrong answers, like a multiple choice test with no answer key. Christians know otherwise because we are the humble recipients of God’s answers revealed through Christ and in the Holy Scriptures (online article at www.ivpress.com/groothuis/doug/archives/000107.php).
The path forward is surely to remain obedient to the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I submit to you that we must also engage our brothers and sisters in the faith and especially those we attempt to reach in our cities with the gospel of Jesus Christ, within the “market place of ideas.”
This is then, an appeal for the Church to embrace the field of apologetics as one vehicle for engaging unbelievers and even the downtrodden within our own ranks. Let me be clear. I am suggesting that apologetics is one plank of the evangelistic effort that must be renewed and that must become a focus of our ministries.
Evangelism is about sharing the life-changing message of God’s salvation freely offered through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The apologetic task is often a necessary step in clearing the “minefield” of objections that an unbeliever might raise, in order that they may have a clear view of the cross of Christ where sin’s penalty was paid.
Apologetics rightly understood is the discourse Christians enter into, that thoughtfully and rationally provide answers for the concerns of unbelievers.
We are losing the culture wars precisely because pastors and laypersons alike, have not understood this responsibility and are not teaching and leading others in doing it.
We need do nothing more than pick up the daily newspaper, turn on the television, or radio, or log onto the internet to see the truthfulness of this statement. Becoming conversant within the secular market place of ideas is no longer optional brothers and sisters. It is a necessity.
Let me illustrate my thesis by presenting to you some examples of a culture that has lost its way.
I want to show how disconnected and ill-informed we have become to the ways of the enemy and the path that America has taken that has resulted in the outrageous decisions we witness from our courts and Congress, not to mention the current and past presidential administrations.
Author George Weigel, in an April 2008 article in First Things journal entitled The Sixties Again and Again, describes 6 crucial incidents that helped shape American culture into what it is today. One of the incidents Weigel cites caught my eye because it illustrates my point in this teaching.
Weigel describes it thusly:
“In 1961, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, opened a birth-control clinic in New Haven in collaboration with Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. Their purpose was to test the constitutionality of Connecticut’s 1879 law banning the sale of contraceptives, a law that had never been enforced and which the U.S. Supreme Court had recently declined to review.
What appears to have been a carefully crafted strategy then unfolded: The state authorities acted; Griswold and Buxton were charged, tried, convicted, and fined $100 each; and the lower court decision was upheld by the relevant Connecticut appellate courts (including the splendidly named “Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors”).
Griswold and Buxton then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted the Case and, in the 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, struck down both the convictions and the Connecticut statute on the ground that the law violated what Justice William O. Douglas’ majority opinion called “the right to marital privacy.” Justice Douglas conceded that the Constitution did not mention a “right to privacy,” marital or otherwise, but famously opined that such a right was to be discerned in “penumbras (an indistinct, unclear, uncertain area –definition mine) formed by emanations” from the Constitution’s enumerated rights.
In dissent, Justice Potter Stewart described the Connecticut law he believed constitutional as “uncommonly silly”—which, in retrospect, was a phrase he could have used to describe Griswold v. Connecticut, adding “pernicious” to “silly.” For in terms of our legal culture, Griswold was the Pearl Harbor of the American culture war, the fierce debate over the moral and cultural foundations of our democracy that has shaped our politics for two generations.”
That last statement is what originally caught my attention. As I read the rest of Weigel’s argument I became convinced that he was absolutely correct in his conclusions and that this same understanding would explain every other tool of the liberals, both secular and religious, as well as their allies in the media and especially in our government.
Here in Weigel, we find a clear example of the importance of Christians working within the market place of ideas. In the best Paul Harvey impression I can muster, “Here is the rest of the story.”
“As Edward Whelan has already put it, who knew that contraception could have such generative power? Griswold begat Eisenstadt v. Baird, the 1972 decision in which the court extended the protections of the “right of privacy” to nonmarried couples.
Then Eisenstadt begat Roe v. Wade, in which the “right to privacy” was cited to strike down state abortion laws from sea to shining sea, in what Justice Byron White described as an exercise in “raw judicial power.”
Roe, in turn, begat Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which positioned the “right to abortion” as a Fourteenth Amendment liberty right. Roe and Casey then begat the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a state antisodomy statute, with Justice Anthony Kennedy making an explicit reference to Griswold’s “right to privacy” as “the most pertinent beginning point” for the line of reasoning that led the Court to Lawrence.
And if Eisenstadt, Roe, Casey, and Lawrence were the direct descendants of Griswold, it is not difficult to see how Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision mandating so-called “gay marriage,” was a collateral descendant of Justice Douglas’ discovery of a constitutional “right to privacy.”
This judicial artifact of the Sixties has had tremendous impact on our political culture. Just as the oral contraceptive pill facilitated the sexual revolution technologically, Griswold facilitated it constitutionally. Governmental indifference to contraception was soon construed to imply governmental indifference to abortion, via the misconstrual of abortion as a matter of sexual privacy rather than as a matter of public justice; and the “right to abortion” soon became a defining issue in our politics.”
The ‘right to abortion,’ with its theme of sexual liberation,” as Hadley Arkes puts it, “has become the central peg on which the interests of the Democratic party have been arranged,” just as, “since the days of Ronald Reagan, the Republican party has become… the pro-life party in our politics.”
Careful observers will note here a profound inversion. If abortion and related life issues are in fact the great civil-rights issues of our time— in that they test whether the state may arbitrarily deny the protection of the law to certain members of the human community—then Griswold eventually led to a situation in which the Democratic and Republican positions on civil rights flipped, with members of today’s Democratic party playing the role that its Southern intransigents played during the glory days of the American civil-rights movement. (I’m not sure what is the greatest travesty here – the Democrats being painted today as champions of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s which they clearly were not; they were largely KKK members who did all they could to suppress civil rights; or, the inversion of good becoming evil and evil becoming good; how else can you explain abortion being defined as a civil right that is good, wholesome, and healthy for a society?)
The Supreme Court was not the only actor in these momentous changes, of course. The invention of the oral contraceptive pill must rank with the splitting of the atom and the unraveling of the DNA double helix as one of the three scientific achievements of the twentieth century with world-historical impact. The sexual revolution was also influenced by trends in philosophy, particularly existentialism’s emphasis on authenticity. The inability of many modern moral philosophers to get beyond Hume’s fact-value distinction in order to think their way through to a contemporary form of natural-law moral reasoning (which would in turn have helped discipline the public debate on abortion) also played its role. The supine surrender of most religious authorities to the sexual revolution removed one cultural obstacle to the sexual revolution’s triumphant progress, which was in turn supported by developments (or, perhaps better, deteriorations) in popular culture.
Still, in measuring the impact of the Sixties on the politics of 2008, the legal consequences of Griswold must be underscored. Here the Supreme Court began to set in legal concrete the notion that sexual morals and patterns of family life are matters of private choice or taste, not matters of public concern in which the state has a legitimate interest. That this trend should have eventually led to claims that marriage is whatever any configuration of adults-sharing-body-parts declares it to be ought not have been a surprise.
Nor should it have been a surprise that the Court, having successfully claimed for itself the authority to write a “living Constitution” based on penumbras and emanations, should assume the roles of National Metaphysician and National Nanny (as it did in Casey, with its famous “mystery of life” passage and its hectoring injunction to a fractious populace to fall into line behind the Court’s abortion jurisprudence). The royal road to the imperial judiciary may not have begun with Griswold, but Griswold certainly accelerated the pace of the coronation procession.”
When the law becomes something other than it was intended to be, morality becomes something other than what God has stated.
Some results in America’s shifting morality were captured in a World Net Daily article entitled “What Were 2009’s Worst Attacks on Christianity?” dated January 4, 2010 in which author Drew Zahn lists what were in his opinion the top 10 acts of religious bigotry and discrimination aimed at Christians. http://www.wnd.com/index.php/index.php?pageId=120976
President Obama has a decidedly anti-Christian bent as demonstrated in his continued appointments of individuals hostile to Christianity. See for example these articles on President Obama’s recess appointment of Chai Feldblum who defends gay sex as morally good and as a newly appointed member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been very transparent in her anti-Christian position. Consider for example this statement Feldblum made related to gay acceptance: “This is a war that needs to be fought, and it’s not a war overseas where we are killing people in the name of liberating them (typical liberal socialist anti-American slant – comments mine). It is a war right here at home where we need to convince people that morality demands full equality for gay people.” See http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=112003 and http://www.cnsnews.com/news/print/59965 Feldblum is also the principle author of ENDA, the oxymoronic law banning discrimination that discriminates. See http://www.ccv.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/909Courier.pdf
You need to understand that when Feldblum and others like our President talk of convincing people they don’t mean through rational dialogue but by the force of law. There is no intention on the part of Mr. Obama and his crowd to try to convince Americans of anything. His strategy is to force his agenda down our throats hoping that (1) we’ll not understand what he is doing until it is too late; (2) bury new laws so deep that they won’t be discovered until many years down the road and by that time entrenched;and/or (3) play on the very real attention deficit disorder and general apathy Americans demonstrate.
I’ve shared all of this with you to underscore the need to become more outspoken about our faith and its foundational place in American cultural life. This is the apologetic task in a nutshell.
Brothers and sisters, I do not take on this subject lightly. Nevertheless I am reminded of the words of Edmund Burke who said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing.”
Far better still are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
May God have mercy on us and ever lead us in the Light.