Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

descent

What are the elements of a Christian worldview?

Christianity teaches a set of beliefs that form the basics of our worldview.

Following is a list of some of the elements that make up the Christian worldview:

An absolute God exists

If an absolute God exists, then it means that God is self-sufficient and lacks nothing. If God is self-sufficient, then he needs no external cause for his existence. This would mean he is eternal. If he is eternal then he does not change.

God created the universe

If God created the universe, then he is all-powerful — since it obviously takes a great deal of power to create the universe. This would also mean that God is separate from creation and not a part of the created order. From the previous point where we see that God is absolute and unchanging, we could see that God’s nature would be reflected in the created order. As a painter leaves a part of himself on the canvas, so God reveals himself in creation. Creation is, therefore, ordered, predictable, and dependable. This would mean that when Christians look into creation, they would expect to find a predictable, regular, and testable world.

God created humanity in His image.

This means that God, who is rational and intelligent, has impressed his image upon the hearts and soul of human beings. Therefore, people can be rational and turn their attention towards the world and since they believe that the universe reflects God’s creative nature, they can have confidence to look into creation and expect order. They can also expect that since they are made in the image of God, they have the ability to unlock the secrets of the universe. In addition, if man is created in God’s image, then all people are worthy of respect and honor. This would also mean that when a new life formed in the womb, it is human from the time of conception. Therefore, abortion would be wrong. Furthermore, if we are created in God’s image, then we did not evolve from lower primates. This would mean that we have purpose and are not merely the result of random development through evolution that is, supposedly, guided by natural selection. Natural selection works on the theory of survival of the fittest and this could have a very harmful effect on society if “survival of the fittest” is transferred into a moral principle. It would justify oppressing the weak and helpless.

God gave man dominion over creation.

This means that all aspects of the created order on earth are to be governed by man according to how God has revealed himself and his will for us in the Bible. Therefore, politics, medicine, art, ecology, society, economics, exploration, philosophy, mathematics, education, etc. all fall under the domain of human responsibility and should be considered realms for man to control — under the wisdom and direction of God’s revelation, the Bible (more on that below).

Humanity is fallen

The Fall of humanity through our ancient father Adam, tells us that at the heart of every one of us is a predisposition toward sin. Sin is rebellion against God and, therefore, it is a rebellion against what is good. Sin has not only affected man’s soul and body, but it has also affected his mind. Therefore, the Christian worldview would say that even man’s best reasoning is touched by sin and cannot be perfect. Furthermore, since man is sinful and his heart’s intentions are predisposed towards wickedness, we conclude that those in power are highly susceptible to corruption. Therefore, governmental systems should be developed with Christian principles in mind to help guard against that. In fact, Christianity influenced the development of the Constitution and American government. Our founding fathers developed the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of government that are there to exercise a system of checks and balances over each other. Why? Because of The Fall, man has a tendency to gravitate towards corruption.

Jesus is humanity’s only hope for redemption

Because man is fallen, he is in need of rescue from God’s righteous condemnation — which is eternal damnation. Also, since he is fallen, there is no way he can redeem himself. Therefore, Jesus, who is God in flesh, died for us and rose from the dead. We receive his righteousness and forgiveness by faith. This basic theological truth means that Christians should then preach that good news of redemption in Christ to all the world. Therefore, one of the most basic Christian principles is promoting Jesus as the means by which we are made right with God.

The Holy Scriptures (The Bible) are the Word of God

Of course, I have already mentioned the Bible, but the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. From the Bible we derive the truths by which we govern our lives. It is from the Bible that we learn about God himself, his created order, the Trinity, redemption, about sin, salvation, hope, and what is morally correct. The Bible reveals the will of God for mankind, for the family, for raising children, for proper behavior in society, etc. It is from the Bible that we can learn the direct will of God.

God Provides for His creation

It is from the Bible that we learn of God’s loving provision for us. We know that God lets the sun and rainfall down upon both the good and the bad. We know that God causes the crops to grow and cattle to multiply. We know that though we live in a fallen world, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. Therefore, we can rely on God’s provision for us and should have confidence that he will continue to provide for our needs. Therefore, you can see that there are basic principles that form the Christian worldview. There are more, but the above eight items are representative of Christianity’s perspective and truth and how it influences belief and action.

ancient-faith

A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

PROLOGUE

In every age the Holy Spirit calls the Church to examine its faithfulness to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, authoritatively recorded in Scripture and handed down through the Church. Thus, while we affirm the global strength and vitality of worldwide Evangelicalism in our day, we believe the North American expression of Evangelicalism needs to be especially sensitive to the new external and internal challenges facing God’s people.

These external challenges include the current cultural milieu and the resurgence of religious and political ideologies. The internal challenges include Evangelical accommodation to civil religion, rationalism, privatism and pragmatism. In light of these challenges, we call Evangelicals to strengthen their witness through a recovery of the faith articulated by the consensus of the ancient Church and its guardians in the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation and the Evangelical awakenings. Ancient Christians faced a world of paganism, Gnosticism and political domination. In the face of heresy and persecution, they understood history through Israel’s story, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Today, as in the ancient era, the Church is confronted by a host of master narratives that contradict and compete with the gospel. The pressing question is: who gets to narrate the world? The Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future challenges Evangelical Christians to restore the priority of the divinely inspired biblical story of God’s acts in history. The narrative of God’s Kingdom holds eternal implications for the mission of the Church, its theological reflection, its public ministries of worship and spirituality and its life in the world. By engaging these themes, we believe the Church will be strengthened to address the issues of our day.

1. ON THE PRIMACY OF THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVE

We call for a return to the priority of the divinely authorized canonical story of the Triune God. This story-Creation, Incarnation, and Re-creation-was effected by Christ’s recapitulation of human history and summarized by the early Church in its Rules of Faith. The gospel-formed content of these Rules served as the key to the interpretation of Scripture and its critique of contemporary culture, and thus shaped the church’s pastoral ministry. Today, we call Evangelicals to turn away from modern theological methods that reduce the gospel to mere propositions, and from contemporary pastoral ministries so compatible with culture that they camouflage God’s story or empty it of its cosmic and redemptive meaning. In a world of competing stories, we call Evangelicals to recover the truth of God’s word as the story of the world, and to make it the centerpiece of Evangelical life.

2. ON THE CHURCH, THE CONTINUATION OF GOD’S NARRATIVE

We call Evangelicals to take seriously the visible character of the Church. We call for a commitment to its mission in the world in fidelity to God’s mission (Missio Dei), and for an exploration of the ecumenical implications this has for the unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from an individualism that makes the Church a mere addendum to God’s redemptive plan. Individualistic evangelicalism has contributed to the current problems of churchless Christianity, redefinitions of the Church according to business models, separatist ecclesiologies and judgmental attitudes toward the Church. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover their place in the community of the Church catholic.

3. ON THE CHURCH’S THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION ON GOD’S NARRATIVE

We call for the Church’s reflection to remain anchored in the Scriptures in continuity with the theological interpretation learned from the early Fathers. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from methods that separate theological reflection from the common traditions of the Church. These modern methods compartmentalize God’s story by analyzing its separate parts, while ignoring God’s entire redemptive work as recapitulated in Christ. Anti-historical attitudes also disregard the common biblical and theological legacy of the ancient Church. Such disregard ignores the hermeneutical value of the Church’s ecumenical creeds. This reduces God’s story of the world to one of many competing theologies and impairs the unified witness of the Church to God’s plan for the history of the world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to unity in “the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all,” as well as to humility and charity in their various Protestant traditions.

4. ON THE CHURCH’S WORSHIP AS TELLING AND ENACTING GOD’S NARRATIVE

We call for public worship that sings, preaches and enacts God’s story. We call for a renewed consideration of how God ministers to us in baptism, Eucharist, confession, the laying on of hands, marriage, healing and through the charisma of the Spirit, for these actions shape our lives and signify the meaning of the world. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect or that assert the self as the source of worship. Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God’s cosmic redemption. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover the historic substance of worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God’s saving acts.

5. ON SPIRITUAL FORMATION IN THE CHURCH AS EMBODIMENT OF GOD’S NARRATIVE

We call for a catechetical spiritual formation of the people of God that is based firmly on a Trinitarian biblical narrative. We are concerned when spirituality is separated from the story of God and baptism into the life of Christ and his Body. Spirituality, made independent from God’s story, is often characterized by legalism, mere intellectual knowledge, an overly therapeutic culture, New Age Gnosticism, a dualistic rejection of this world and a narcissistic preoccupation with one’s own experience. These false spiritualities are inadequate for the challenges we face in today’s world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to return to a historic spirituality like that taught and practiced in the ancient catechumenate.

6. ON THE CHURCH’S EMBODIED LIFE IN THE WORLD

We call for a cruciform holiness and commitment to God’s mission in the world. This embodied holiness affirms life, biblical morality and appropriate self-denial. It calls us to be faithful stewards of the created order and bold prophets to our contemporary culture. Thus, we call Evangelicals to intensify their prophetic voice against forms of indifference to God’s gift of life, economic and political injustice, ecological insensitivity and the failure to champion the poor and marginalized. Too often we have failed to stand prophetically against the culture’s captivity to racism, consumerism, political correctness, civil religion, sexism, ethical relativism, violence and the culture of death. These failures have muted the voice of Christ to the world through his Church and detract from God’s story of the world, which the Church is collectively to embody. Therefore, we call the Church to recover its counter-cultural mission to the world.

EPILOGUE

In sum, we call Evangelicals to recover the conviction that God’s story shapes the mission of the Church to bear witness to God’s Kingdom and to inform the spiritual foundations of civilization. We set forth this Call as an ongoing, open-ended conversation. We are aware that we have our blind spots and weaknesses. Therefore, we encourage Evangelicals to engage this Call within educational centers, denominations and local churches through publications and conferences.

We pray that we can move with intention to proclaim a loving, transcendent, triune God who has become involved in our history. In line with Scripture, creed and tradition, it is our deepest desire to embody God’s purposes in the mission of the Church through our theological reflection, our worship, our spirituality and our life in the world, all the while proclaiming that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

This Call is issued in the spirit of sic et non; therefore those who affix their names to this Call need not agree with all its content. Rather, its consensus is that these are issues to be discussed in the tradition of semper reformanda as the church faces the new challenges of our time. Over a period of seven months, more than 300 persons have participated via e-mail to write the Call. These men and women represent a broad diversity of ethnicity and denominational affiliation. The four theologians who most consistently interacted with the development of the Call have been named as Theological Editors. The Board of Reference was given the special assignment of overall approval.

Just before his death in 2007, Robert E. Webber (inset picture) spent a good portion of his time working collaboratively with over 300 theologians and other leaders to craft A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future. The Call continues some themes and expands upon the Chicago Call” of 1977, and sets forth a vision for an Ancient-Future faith in a postmodern world. That Webber helped to craft such a call is not unusual, for he spent the whole of his professional life calling the church to continual reform and, most especially, encouraging leaders and laity alike to drink from the refreshing well of ancient truth. That the Call came, as it did, at a time of great change in the world and in the church, and that it also came just before his passing, gives it a kind of weight that makes it especially compelling to examine.

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Perhaps during some late November, you have given or received an Advent calendar. Chances are, it was decorated with a religious picture and twenty-five perforated windows for each day in the month of December. When the window was opened, you could read a Bible verse or religious thought for that day. In more expensive calendars, a small piece of chocolate might be found. Parents in particular find that Advent calendars can help children “wait” during the interminable 24 days preceding Christmas, by giving them a little treat each day in December.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means coming. Christians celebrate the four weeks before Christmas as a time to reflect on and anticipate the “coming” of Christ at Christmas as well as the “coming” of Christ at the end of time. Preparing for the birth of Christ is a reminder of God’s great love for us—a love so vast that Christ lived and died as one of us. Preparing for the final coming of Christ is a reminder of the glory and grandeur that we will one day share in the Kingdom of God.

Customarily in the Christian tradition, the focus has been on these two “comings” of Christ. However, St. Bernard in the 11th Century identified a “third coming” that Advent leads us to await—the coming of Christ in our own soul. While the birth of Christ and the second coming of Christ are important to Christians, we must all still move through this earthly life on a day-to-day basis with Christ in our hearts.

Keeping a watchful Advent reminds us that we do not tread these days in isolation. We can live in expectation of the movement of Christ in and through every moment of those days. Even though we are frequently distracted and diverted from attention to this movement within us, the season of Advent reminds us to turn inward yet again and seek God, the Holy Spirit within us.

Advent is a time to notice the longing that runs through the silent crevices in our souls. It helps us learn to wait in patience for that longing to be filled rather than hiding it or numbing it by shuffling through the mall, standing in front of the open refrigerator, or sitting stone-like in front of the television. Advent is also a time to embrace silence and stillness in order to see more clearly and hear more keenly the movement of the Spirit of God. Finally, Advent is a time to rejoice with hope and expectation that what we say we believe will, in fact, be revealed in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives.

“Come, Follow Me!” – A Gospel Journey

 Come Follow Me

Click here for audio version

To follow Jesus Christ means:

  1. We are chosen by Him

After Jesus temptations in the wilderness and preaching begins…

Matthew 4:19* And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (“Come, follow Me!” means His call is effective and He equips us)

John 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” (Present active imperative – it is a direct command to Philip to follow Him)

Jesus speaks about those who are really His, and Who the real Shepherd is…

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (God chooses us we do not choose Him)

  1. We are to deny and die

While Jesus deals with many crowds and a centurion…

Matthew 8:21-22 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (The spiritually dead bury their own dead, while the spiritually alive follow Christ, and preach the Gospel – when God regenerates the one He calls, they become spiritually alive.) cp. Luke 9:60

There are two types of followers:

  1. Those that are chosen
  2. Those who are fans or groupies

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Taking up your cross is not a metaphor; it means to be willing to deny yourself and die for Christ)

After speaking to the crowds and Pharisees, Jesus explains…

Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Following Christ means giving up all you have and all you are)

Now look at verses 28-30:

“Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

After doing many miracles and healings, Jesus sees Levi…

Luke 5:27-28 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi (who is Matthew), sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.  (When God calls us to Himself, the call is irresistible. {Note: Greek imperfect active tense meaning Matthew began at once to follow Jesus and kept following Him}

After feeding the 5000, Jesus explains what it means to follow Him…

Luke 9:23** And he said to all, “If anyone would come (present tense) after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (God calls us to denial of self {i.e. totally reject ourselves} and to death, i.e., take up our own cross – daily.)

     3. We are never to look back

Luke 9:59-62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (There is a reluctance to break from the world system; whoever looks back to the world is not appropriate for the Kingdom of God)

  1. We are equipped to serve and multiply

Jesus explains to Andrew and Philip that He must be sacrificed and glorified…

John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (We must follow Christ before we can serve Him)

Jesus tells Peter of his responsibilities…

John 21:19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” {Greek describes a union of a particle with a word; You, Peter, follow me!}

John 21:22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (In this verse, John uses a primary pronoun; You, Peter, keep on following me!)

Jesus is saying here that:

  1. Our main concern is to follow Him.
  2. There are areas of the disciple’s life upon which we exercise a proud and presumptuous curiosity. Jesus reproves all that curiosity.
  3. Jesus assures us that He will take care of all His true disciples, and that we should not be unduly concerned about anything or anyone else.
  4. To follow Him means we should go forward to whatever He calls us to, whether persecution or death – not envying any other person, and anxious only to do the will of God.

5. We are to possess certain “qualities” – 2 Peter 1:1-10:

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

The idea here is not making sure that we retain our salvation by doing something, but the fact that we do possess salvation! Peter says; “doing these things,” testify that we are indeed followers of Christ.

To recap:

There are five ways to illustrate what it means to follow Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

To follow Jesus Christ means:

  1. We are chosen by Him.
  2. We are to deny and die.
  3. We are never to look back.
  4. We are equipped to serve and multiply.
  5. We are to possess certain “qualities.”

For the audio message only: Come, Follow Me

Seal-Sun-black-Red-Moon

Darkness At Noon: The Commission of a Post-Compliant Church

As the late Allan Bloom noted, a mind resolutely determined to be absolutely open is
often, in actuality, quite closed. The closing of the postmodern mind will present a
challenge for the church in this post-Christian age. Swirling worldviews and a
reflexive relativism come together to form a mentality often closed to all substantive truth
claims. Gathering clouds of darkness and the eclipse of truth present the believing church
with a great challenge – will we surrender in a spirit of cultural compliance?
We must recognize that the church has been compliant for far too long, and if we are
effectively to challenge the prevailing worldview of postmodern culture, the church must
become a post-compliant people. What will it take for Christians in this generation to be
awakened out of complacency and compliance? If we are complacent in this culture, if we are
compliant in the face of its demands and expectations, then there will be no preaching of the
gospel. There will be no authentic church. There will be no authentic Christian witness. We
will withdraw into our Christian cave, and we will cower there. We will not witness, we will
not work–we will simply retreat.

A recent debate between Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff is very revealing. In a book
entitled Religion in the Public Square, Robert Audi takes the secular argument–which is the
prevalent position in the academy–and argues that Christians have no right to make
Christian arguments in the public square. It is fine for Christians to make arguments, he says;
they just cannot show up as Christians. Following in the work of the philosopher John Rawls,
Audi goes so far as to say that when we enter the public square, we must bring with us a
purely secular rationale. In other words, any argument we make must be essentially and
purely secular, and such arguments are to be motivated by secular concerns alone. They
cannot even be spiritually motivated.

Think about what this means on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage, to
take just one example. I believe historians will one day point to this issue as the catalyst for a
great and lamentable cultural revolution in America. The world will be categorically different
the moment homosexual marriage is normalized in this country. Then we will find out how
many Christians there are. We will find out how many churches there are. Who is going to
recognize these same-sex unions? Who is going to solemnize these same-sex unions? Not the
faithful church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Any church that would normalize and celebrate
what Scripture condemns has set itself in direct opposition to revelation, reason, and the
witness of the martyrs. Those who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel did not do so in a
spirit of cultural compliance.

Think for a moment about this issue of same-sex marriage in the context of Audi’s secular
rationale. I was in Washington recently and heard a presentation in which a very wellinformed
person–one of the nation’s leading researchers on the issues of the day, said,
“Look, we have to understand that we are not going to be able to bring God into the same-sex
marriage debate. We are not going to be able to use spiritual and biblical arguments, so you
Christian people are just going to have to understand that.” I was up next to speak, so I said in
response, “Here is everything I know about marriage apart from God – nothing of binding
significance. Now that that is out of the way, I can tell you that everything I know about
marriage, everything I know about sex, everything I know about gender, everything I know
about homosexuality, I know from the Word of God. That is all I know. That is all I can know,
and I am not going to not talk about it. And if we lose this battle while preaching the
Scriptures, then brothers and sisters, we lose gloriously!”

There are many who will say that what must be pressed in this debate over same-sex
marriage are the deleterious social effects of undermining marriage – and leave all
theologically-based arguments out of the picture. That argument, however, is not only
wrong in principle, it is a pragmatic failure. We will never get anywhere with that, because
the people driving the movement for normalizing homosexuality really aren’t primarily
concerned about those issues. A culture that will compromise itself into accepting
homosexual marriage will never really be convinced by such arguments. In the final analysis,
all we have is the authority of the Word of God. We Christians are the world’s most eccentric
people in a postmodern age. We are committed to a faith that is structured by a book that is
two thousand years old. Beyond eccentric, we are increasingly seen as dangerous. A people
who live by the light of an ancient book – and who dare to call it the very Word of God – will
look exceedingly dangerous to the prevailing worldviews of this age.

The entire biblical truth claim is under assault in today’s culture. We see the tightening grip
in the tenacity of all this onslaught. We see a culture that increasingly loves darkness rather
than the light. We can see the logic of the culture, and we can see that the church has been
compliant too long. Thus, when we turn to Hebrews chapter 12, we are confronted with an
exhortation that instructs is that the reality must be different for us. The prophet Joel warned
of that apocalyptic day of judgment that is coming–a day when the sun will turn to darkness
and the moon will be turned to blood. In Hebrews 12, we are confronted with another
warning of judgment–this time addressed to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The writer
of Hebrews writes of two mountains, Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. One represents the
covenant of old, and the other represents the New Covenant in Christ. Sinai represents
thunder and shaking and fear; Zion represents the festive joy of the people of God in the
work of Christ, in the Kingdom of the Redeemer.

In this passage, we are also told of a shaking that is about to come. In Hebrews 12:26, the
author quotes from the prophet Haggai in chapter 2, verses 6-7: “For thus says the Lord of
hosts: ‘Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and
the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in,
and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.’” Then the writer of Hebrews picks
up by saying. “This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken–
that is, things that have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may
remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)

We are now in a time of shaking, and there is more shaking yet to come. As we read the book
of Hebrews, this too is pointing towards an eschatological shaking and sifting. But just as in
Joel, there is both an eschatological and a present application. There is a shaking now
happening in this generation, and this shaking will be followed by more and more violent
shaking yet. We are about to see what remains and what falls. In this time of shifting and
sifting and shaking, we are going to be tested, and we are going to find out what we are made
of.

Look at Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be
shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God
is a consuming fire.” Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Yes,
there is a whole lot of shaking going on! But there is one kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and that is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What does that kingdom look like? It is certainly a kingdom of victory, but it is sometimes a
victory that doesn’t look to observers like victory. Look at Hebrews 11:32: “And what more
shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and
Samuel and the prophets–who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the
edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign
armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured,
refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered
mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were
sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats,
destitute, afflicted, mistreated–of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in
deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:32-38)

I think it is fair to say that to the casual, outside observer, this picture does not look much like
victory. But in the eyes of faith, it doesn’t get any more victorious than what this passage
declares. We don’t get to choose our times. We don’t get to choose our challenges. We didn’t
choose to live in a post-Christian age. We didn’t choose to confront the postmodern mind,
but this is where we are, and it is time that we become a post-compliant church. While all is
shaking and shaken around us, the one thing that cannot be shaken is the kingdom of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and this kingdom is visible in His church.

In a post-Christian age, confronted with the challenge of the postmodern mind, the Church
of the Lord Jesus Christ is called to be a post-compliant people. Anything less is just another
form of spiritual surrender.

~ by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Seal-Sun-black-Red-Moon

Darkness At Noon: The Closing of the Postmodern Mind

The prophet Joel spoke of a day when the sun would be turned to darkness, and the
moon to blood. This picture–besides giving us a glimpse of that terrible, coming
Day of the Lord in judgment–is also a graphic picture of our own times. Even today,
in the gathering clouds of our culture, we see darkness at noon.

One of the central realities of this darkness is the dawning of a post-Christian culture – and a
central reality of our emerging culture is the closing of the postmodern mind. Something is
happening to the worldview, the mentality, and the consciousness of this age. If we listen
closely, we can hear something like the closing of a steel door — a solemn, cataclysmic
slamming of a door. We have been watching the postmodern mind in its development, and it
is now well developed. Not only do we see the themes of postmodernity taking hold of the
larger culture, but we understand the challenge this pattern of thinking poses to Christian
truth and Christian truth-telling. Tolerance is perverted into a radical secularism that is
anything but tolerant. There is little openness to truth, and growing hostility to truth claims.
Indeed, the postmodern mind has a fanatical, if selective, dedication to moral relativism, and
an understanding that truth has no objective or absolute basis whatsoever.

The late French philosopher Jacques Derrida shaped the postmodern mind by arguing that
the author of a text is effectively dead in terms of establishing the text’s meaning. One of the
fathers of literary deconstructionism, his concept of “the death of the author” exerts a
powerful influence on the culture at large. Derrida’s basically nihilistic philosophy suggested
that texts mean nothing in themselves. In other words, it is the reader who comes to the text
with meaning and determines what will be found within the text. The author is dead, Derrida
proclaimed, and can no longer dictate by his totalitarian authority what the text means.
Even before Derrida’s death, new debates about deconstructionism arose in the academy.
More significantly, these nihilistic philosophies have already filtered down into popular
culture. Even now, for example, many of our judges are practicing deconstructionists, seeing
the law not as what it was or what it was intended to be, but rather as a tool they can use for
their own agenda of social engineering. In the elite institutions of American academia,
deconstructionism is the order of the day. The text means what the professor says it means,
and it eventually means whatever each student would have it to mean. The reader reigns
supreme.

Unfortunately, deconstructionism has also found its way into many pulpits, sometimes in a
hard, ideological form, but more often in a soft and seductive form. In the hard form of
undiluted liberalism, it is simply the idea that this text, the Bible, may be a privileged text, but
the authors are dead. Thus, it is now up to us to decide what it should mean, so we can turn
the text on its head. And we can do so in the name of liberation, and freedom from
oppression. We are no longer bound to the oppressive truth of the text because we can now
twist the text to mean something it has never been understood to mean in the past – even the
opposite of what the words and grammatical structure would seem to mean. In so doing,
postmoderns seek to liberate themselves by deconstructing the text. After all, all the authors
are dead.

Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that such a hermeneutic must also assume that the
divine Author is dead. In its softer, subtler form, we find deconstructionism among some
who would never consider themselves liberals, and who would even claim to have what they
would characterize as a high view of Scripture. Yet when they encounter the text, they also
deconstruct it. The biblical text, they argue, has to be understood in terms of our modern
understanding. Modern psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and cultural studies have
something to bring to the interpretation of the text, they argue, something to tell us which
the human authors of Scripture missed. In other words, one may start with what it said, but
now we ourselves can decide what it means.

In both its hard and soft forms, deconstructionism has filtered down to the popular culture,
even to those who never heard of Jacques Derrida but have been nonetheless infected with
this postmodern mentality and this subtle form of subversive relativism and subjectivism.
You can hear Derrida in the discourse of adolescents in the mall. You can hear it in the
conversation on the nightly news.

The closing of the postmodern mind is the opposite of what postmodernism claimed to be its
aspiration. Postmodernism claimed that this new postmodern age–with the end of
modernity, the demise of scientific objectivity, and the openness to new forms and
understandings of truth–would lead to an opening of the mind. But as is always the case, the
totalitarian opening of the mind always ends with the radical closing of the mind. There is
nothing less tolerant than the modern ethos of tolerance. There is nothing less open than
the modern idea of open-mindedness. In the darkening sky and the gathering clouds, we see
the haunting closure of this supposedly open mind.

Sociologist Peter Berger reminds us that every single individual operates on the basis of
plausibility structures — certain frameworks of thought that are necessary for our
understanding of the world. For years, Berger and others have been telling us that the
plausibility structures of most Americans have little, if anything, to do with biblical
Christianity. The way most persons think about the world, the way they envision beauty, the
way they conceive love, the way they understand authority and marriage and structure and
principle and truth, all of these things are now basically secular in form. Not only so, but in
recent years we have witnessed the acceleration of this secularism into something that is
deeply dark, and increasingly nihilistic. What Karl Marx once promised would happen seems
to be coming to fulfillment–all that is solid melts into air. In the world of postmodernism, all
institutions are plastic, and all principles are liquid. We can reshape anything. Nothing is
given. Nothing is objective.

We can take the family, for example, and we can melt it down and make it something else. In
fact, we can turn it into an infinite number of liquid arrangements. We can take any
institution, be it government or church, or marriage, or family, and we can make of it what
we will. All principles are liquid, too. We can simply pour them out in a different way. Since
there is nothing really there anyway, we can reconfigure any principle according to our
desires. So we will reshape our entire worldview. We will shape our new philosophy. We will
be humanity come of age, and we will do this in the name of liberation and tolerance and
diversity–and open-mindedness. George Orwell never saw it so clearly, yet this is where we
live. Openness becomes closedness. Freedom becomes bondage, and tolerance becomes
intolerance.

The closing of the postmodern mind is not a pretty sight, nor is it friendly to human rights
and human dignity. We can look to Europe, where the post-Christian age is already
coalescing into a system of laws and a pattern of culture. Sweden, for example, already has
imprisoned a Pentecostal pastor, Ake Green, for preaching a sermon in which he spoke of
the sinfulness of homosexuality. He was recently acquitted of that “crime” by Sweden’s
highest court, but the fact remains that he was arrested and convicted by a lower court – and
the law remains in effect. Across much of Western Europe there is legislation in which it is
can be considered a crime to speak of the sinfulness of any sexual lifestyle, and of
homosexuality in particular.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, there are now official protocols for killing children and
infants in hospitals. Euthanasia has advanced to the point that, in the Netherlands, the
largest medical school in the country just reported that 31 percent of pediatricians have
admitted to killing babies, and 45 percent of neonatologists have admitted to euthanizing
infants–even without informing the parents that that is what happened to their child. And all
this is done, of course, in the name of health, even in the name of compassion. Then along
comes the Christian to say “We have a message about the dignity and sanctity of life,” and he
is told to be quiet. We can say, “Well, that is Europe. That is a post-Christian future that is an
ocean away.”

But even in the United States, we see all this coming together, and the clinched fist of a
closed postmodern mind is increasingly evident. In 1995, for instance, a U.S. District Court
judge in the state of Texas ruled against school prayer, afraid that some teenagers might in
the course of their graduation ceremony actually mention the name of Jesus, or mention the
name of God. When he handed down the ruling, the judge warned teenagers in the state of
Texas, saying, “If any of you shall mention the name of Jesus or God, or any other deity, you
will rue the day that you were born and will spend up to half a year in the Galveston jail.” That
is not Arthur Koestler warning in Darkness at Noon of the Soviet Union in 1941. It is the United
States of America in 1995. Legal observers may argue that this judge’s comments were not
indicative of a universal trend, but is this truly reassuring?

In the state of California, those who would be foster parents are now required to pledge that
they will say nothing that is in any way opposed to homosexuality or to any chosen sexual
lifestyle. Effectively, that means that Christians can no longer be foster parents in the state of
California. What a switch in ten years! Ten years ago, homosexual couples could not be foster
parents in the state of California. Now it is the Christians – who would raise their children as
Christians – who cannot be foster parents in that state.

A recently published book by Sam Harris entitled The End of Faith even claimed that faith
itself is a form of terrorism, and that the United States can no longer afford its long cherished
ideal of religions toleration and religious liberty. According to Harris, religious liberty is
simply too dangerous in a world like this.

We need to take notice of these developments in order that we might understand the
challenge we are about to face, because I fear that as evangelical Christians, we tend to swing
like a pendulum between a naive optimism and a wrongful pessimism. In reality, we have no
right to be either optimistic or pessimistic. To be either optimistic or pessimistic is to be
deluded, and in some sense to deny the sovereignty of God. We cannot be pessimistic because
Scripture tells us we are to be a people of hope. Of course, that does not mean that we are a
naive and ignorant people of hope who close our eyes to the reality around us. No, we find a
hope in something that is far more secure than anything this culture can secure.
But, on the other hand, we cannot be optimistic, either. Optimism is the message sent down
from public relations. Optimism is the happy face that tells us with a chipper voice that
everything is all right. Well, it is not all right, and everything will not be well, not in this age
or in this life. We have no right to be optimistic, but we have no right not to be hopeful.
Evangelicals, sometimes demonstrating a nearly breathtaking naivete, swing between these
pendulum extremes of pessimism and optimism, when Scripture calls us to reality. Be soberminded,
we are told. Gird up the loins of your thinking. Be ready, be alert, be watchful. Be a
watchman on the wall. Have your eyes open. Be ready for action. This is our calling as
Christians, even as the darkness gathers. We are to be the community of the open-eyed, the
intellectually alert, the broken-hearted, and the resolutely hopeful. Pulling that off will take
more than wishful thinking.

~ by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Seal-Sun-black-Red-Moon

Darkness At Noon: A Post-Christian Age

We are an affluent and comfortable people. We live in the midst of freedom as
championed by those who established this nation and defined by successive
generations, not only in terms of the originating vision of freedom, but now an
ever-expanding understanding of liberty. We live in a time of prosperity; we live in a time of
trouble. It all depends upon how you look at the world around us.

It is good for Christians to take some time to look at the trouble, for all around us are a
darkening sky and gathering clouds. As we engage this culture and look at it honestly, we
must sense that something has happened — and is even now happening — in our culture.
These major shifts and changes will change everything we know about ministry in terms of
the challenge before us and will draw out the reality of who the church is in the midst of a
gathering conflict. Clouds are darkening.

We are no longer seeing the first signs of cultural trouble, but rather the indicators of
advanced decay. The reality is that people now do not even know what they have lost, much
less that they themselves are lost.

As a nation, we are living in the midst of an intense season of cultural, political, and moral
conflict–that is no longer news. America has been through epic conflicts in the past,
including a bloody civil war. Still, we must wonder if the worldview conflicts of our time may
represent an even deeper conflict than those experienced in times past. We are living in a
time of deep and undeniable trouble.

There is a sense, I think, in this culture that we are waiting for a signal for something to tell
us which way we are going to go. Something is happening and about to happen. The
landscape is changing, the skies are darkening–and this is something we know with a
spiritual perception, a spiritual sense, a spiritual urgency. Something is happening that we as
believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should see and understand. For we cannot say that we were
not warned.

The prophet Joel declared: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and
fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood,
before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone
who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there
shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom
the Lord calls. (Joel 2:30-32 ESV).

And, from the book of Hebrews: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they
did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape
if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he
has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This
phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that
have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us
be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God
acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews
12:25-29 ESV)

These passages describe a reality we might call darkness at noon. In these passages we
confront a prophetic vision, a prophetic warning, and a haunting reality. Darkness at Noon–I
borrow this title from Arthur Koestler. In 1941 he saw the Soviet Union in all of its horror and
the Third Reich in all of its hateful fury, and he described this horrifying reality as darkness at
noon. Our times are not the same as Koestler’s, nor are the particular challenges we face. Our
central concerns and fears are not represented by totalitarian governments or foreign
regimes that threaten world domination, but we must see a real and present threat on our
horizon. We can hear the prophet Joel–we can hear him speak of the sun turned to darkness
and the moon turned to blood on the great and awful day of the Lord. This is apocalyptic
imagery–we know that. It is speaking of a judgment, of a day of the Lord that was near on
Joel’s horizon, and yet distant on the horizon of the eschaton, when the Lord Himself shall
come to judge the living and the dead.

The imagery of judgment in this passage — of the sun turned to darkness and the moon to
blood — is a foreboding image that gives us in a graphic picture a sign of the times, and
around us we can see a darkening sky that threatens a darkening sun. We can see darkness at
noon on the dawn.

A central dimension of this reality is the dawning of a post-Christian age. History has been
altered in so many ways in the twists and turns of human experience. But who could have
expected that in our times we would see those nations that once were the cradle of
Christianity become so secularized that they can only be described as post-Christian in
composition, in culture, in theme, and in worldview and understanding? The post-Christian
sense, the post-Christian theme, the post-Christian mentality of these cultures is such that
we can look to the nations of Western Europe and see what a post-Christian culture begins to
look like. We hear the language, we listen to the discourse, we see the laws, we hear the
judgments, we watch the culture at work, and we realize that this is what a nation, a people,
an ethnos, a generation that once knew Christianity but knows it no more, looks like and
sounds like. This is how they live. And it is not just Europe.

Even as demographers, pollsters, and statisticians tell us how many Americans believe in
God, and how many claim belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, still we can see the beginnings of a
post-Christian mentality here in America. Look at the cultural elites–the political elites, the
legal elites, the judicial, academic, and entertainment elites–look at them, and you will
realize that they are largely post-Christian in their mentality.

The prophet Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord,” when the divine judgment would fall like a
terrible and swift sword. In Joel 1, the prophet says, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel,
the son of Pethuel: Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the Land! Has such a
thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let
your children tell their children, and their children to another generation. What the cutting
locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust
has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.” (Joel 1:1-4 ESV)
This text speaks most directly of a crop, but it also points to a culture. Our culture has been
savaged by locusts. What the cutting locust leaves, the swarming locusts eat. What the
swarming locusts leave, the hopping locust takes. What the hopping locust leaves, the
destroying locust destroys.

We can give evidence of this in individual words, each representing an individual loss.
Consider what has happened to truth, to beauty, to dignity, love, and marriage. Consider
what is even now happening in our midst. We are witnessing the dawn of a post-Christian
age in our own times, in our own nation, in our own world, and among our own people. We
can see the ravages that will come as the sacred things are profaned and trampled under foot.
We see the evidence of this decadence and downfall in the culture–in art and music and
literature. We are a people whose cultural and moral aspirations are indicated by the Neilson
ratings and by the lowest common denominator of the entertainment industry. We are a
nation, a people, entertained by a show called “Desperate Housewives,” by reality TV that
celebrates the lowest and most base human instincts, and by entertainment that panders and
is profane.

Look at what has happened to marriage and family. The idea of romantic love is now
commonly reduced to lust. We have largely destroyed the purity of marriage. This central
institution of civilization has been decried, denigrated, and even discarded. Marriage is under
attack by those who would transform it into something it cannot be and never was, and
truthfully never will be.

We see all of this and we wonder how it could have happened. And yet Scripture has told us
that sinners love darkness rather than the light. Let me put it this way–in a truly post-
Christian age, the saddest loss of all is a loss of the memory of what was lost. The saddest
aspect of our dawning post-Christian age is that there is no longer even a memory of what
was discarded and what was denied and rejected. Having lived for so long on the memory of
Christian truth, without the substance of Christian truth, the culture now grows hostile to
that truth.

Even the memory of what once was is now being lost in our generation. We are living in an
age in which all constraints and restraints are to be thrown off–all in the name of the
liberation that does not liberate, but enslaves. We are seeing the coming of a repressive post-
Christian age that is packaged as an age of unprecedented liberty. We must name it for what
it is — and be aware of what a challenge this represents for the believing church.

~ by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.