Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Is this election a referendum in the culture war?

    Where have all the conservative Christian values gone? Why is it that a man who is the most liberal senator on the hill, who has admitted being strongly influenced by liberation theology and is one of the most extreme supporters of abortion has a very good chance of being the next president of the United States?

    How does this election fit into the overall culture war?
    ......
    Personal interlude: "I am frankly astounded that Senator Obama even has a chance. The mere fact that he was not rejected out of hand in the Democrat primaries was already surprising, and that he is now in with a better than average chance of becoming president. I don't think that he is a bad person, but he clearly doesn't hold to traditional and conservative Christian values when it comes to his policy positions. Nor do I think that anyone who votes for him is a bad person. For me, this is more about the overall culture war, and how this election may be a turning point in that war."

    Judeo-Christian values has been taking a pounding in the last 50 or so years. From Hollywood to the secularization of educational institutions, the move of most mainstream media to the left and then the recent spate of books and movies attacking Christianity as illogical and irrational may have finally taken its toll. (the economic problems and disjointed campaign from McCain hasn't helped. But the fact is that Obama is one of the two major party candidates.)

    Faith has seemingly played less of a role in this election cycle than ever before. When it became known that Governor Palin was a conservative Christian, the above groups were quick to pounce on her faith with breathless incredulity and indignation, and she has not made it a clear differentiator either. "Creationist" was flung around like it meant the same as murderer, and her teenage daughter's pregnancy was trumpeted as an example of hypocrisy.

    The default position has become that of the secular left, and those with conservative Christian values are now being labelled the radicals. And what is worse is that the majority of Americans, for the first time, seem to agree. The pounding down of Christian values and faith has finally taken its toll. It has become a non-issue on the campaign trial for both candidates, and the person holding the strongest secular positions looks like he is winning comfortably.

    And we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. Christians have politely stood back and opened the door for this to happen, seemingly forgetting that we are in an eternal war against evil. In many churches has the secular creeped in, preferring to preach earthly wealth and prosperity instead of the eternal battle. Preferring to make God our buddy, and banishing talk of evil, hell and Satan to the same scrapheap as theology and doctrine. Preferring to conform to the world, and not stand apart from it.

    Has that influence from the secular left so far infiltrated even the American faith that it has forever and inevitably turned? Has the last bastion of conservative Christianity in the world fallen, following in the footsteps of Western Europe? I would like to think not, but the evidence seems to point the other way.

    The culture war is at a precarious tipping point, and regardless of the outcome of the election, Christians will have to take a good hard look at where it is they stand in American society. Banished from mainstream culture in science, entertainment, education, the judicial system and government, it is indeed a dark future unless Christians stand up and start fighting back in those arenas.

    It is time to become humble before God again, and get back to Him, instead of trying to fight the secularists on their terms and conditions. It is time for Christians to wake up from their slumber, and to stop wasting time with insipid prosperity and pop-psychology preaching. There are more important issues at hand, such as the very survival of our Christian society.
    ......

    13 comments:

    skeptimal said...

    Sword,

    I hope you'll take these words as words of comfort.

    This election isn't about the culture war or about Christianity. It's about reaction to manipulation, intimidation, and deception by the Republican Party. It's a reaction to the corruption and destruction that have resulted from the philosophy that the love of money is the root of all good.

    If the Democrats win and take the attitude that this is a "mandate" for them to run roughshod over conservatives, they will have made the same mistakes the Republicans have made for the past sixteen years. They won't last long if they make that mistake.

    You said: "The default position has become that of the secular left, and those with conservative Christian values are now being labelled the radicals."

    I don't see this at all. The only part of the Republican philosophy that I see being raked over the coals is the idea that we can trust the markets to regulate themselves.

    BTW, you're in much less danger of persecution than I am as a non-Christian. Very few politicians can get elected if they aren't religious. Furthermore, it is in no one's interest to marginalize conservative Christians. What *is* in everyone's interest is for Evangelicals to come to the table and recognize that civilizations are built on shared power, not absolute control by one group of people, no matter the source of their inspiration.

    I can only speak for myself, but if the Dems win (and it's certainly not a given), and they act as arrogant as the Republicans have acted, I'm going to be raising hell. No matter who's in charge, if we don't start treating each other with more respect than we have recently, we're all going down together.

    swordbearer said...

    You have raised an important issue in regard to the culture war (and the state and future of Christianity in America). This is something Christians in America (and around the globe) need to consider and take seriously. Your points are well taken when you refer to the need for prayer and (reformed: back to the Bible) preaching.
    You stated: “The default position has become that of the secular left, and those with conservative Christian values are now being labelled the radicals.” John Sire points out the dominant or prevailing worldview(s) is the one which determines what constitutes "madness". Here, the term "radicals" is a significant step down that path, though not as far as down the path as the culture war can lead us. What's interesting is, while the health and wealth preachers (etc.) are helping the shift in the culture war, they will not be the ones persecuted. The church needs to rethink our lack of response to false preachers.
    Having insightfully raised the culture war and wisely presented it, your concluding paragraph is right on the mark! While we can be thankful the survival of the Christian truth and church as a whole is not ultimately at stake (it being secure in Christ and backed by his covenant), it is at the same time a grave concern that the survival of Christian society in America could be.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal,

    Thanks for weighing in.

    First, (a minor clarification), this was August's post, not mine.

    Second, on one level, I hope you're right that this is not so much about the culture war or Christianity, but rather response to political parties, etc.; however August makes a good point when he draws attention to the lack of "values" discussion in this political conversation.

    Perhaps, it's more simply the desire for change (even though it should concern us there's either no regard, or concern or approval of some of the changes being advocated) issues of race (on a good level- that is, the nation stating race should "not" keep one from office) and issues of the economy driving this election. If so, this would be good news in regard to the culture war.

    The difficulty is that it's hard to discern why people choose the candidate they do. Are they doing so because of "principles" (though they may be a "different set of principles" ... or are they doing so just for the sake of change though because they are "not principle motivated" they do so with no regard or little concern or even approval for the change being advocated. This issue is a huge one, and though it may take some time to figure out, the culture war is and will be affected by it. The extent to which individuals still list themselves as "undecided" in this election is concerning (especially given the differences in positions among these candidates).

    You stated: "BTW, you're in much less danger of persecution than I am as a non-Christian. Very few politicians can get elected if they aren't religious." I differ with you on this. If Christianity is the prevailing worldview, you may not get elected, but you won't be silenced or sent to jail. While you may not have interest in marginalizing Christians, others do (and your own thinking might even change if Christian influence begins to be diminished, a shift in attitude toward it is effected, and views of other worldviews are espoused and adopted.)

    Puritan Lad said...

    "The only part of the Republican philosophy that I see being raked over the coals is the idea that we can trust the markets to regulate themselves."

    As opposed to having Government regulate the markets?

    Do you really think that the current financial crisis is the result of free market economics. It is the direct result of Democratic corruption, no more and no less. Unfortunately, our "compassionate conservative", bipartisan Candidate is afraid to say that for some reason.

    Money in the hands of the market = good.

    Money in the hands of government = gone.

    skeptimal said...

    First let me say that I'm sorry, August...I failed to notice it was your subject and not Sword's.

    Puritan Lad said: "As opposed to having Government regulate the markets?"

    PL,

    I understand that you have a very rigid view of...well...everything. I'm not a fan of the Democratic Party, but probably not for the same reasons as you. What is your reason for blaming the Dems?

    skeptimal said...

    "I differ with you on this. If Christianity is the prevailing worldview, you may not get elected, but you won't be silenced or sent to jail."

    It never starts with jail or overt silencing. It starts when those in power imply that you're not fully American unless you're a Bible-believing Christian.

    I understand and agree with your assertion that the election will affect the culture war, but August's question was whether the election was a referendum on the culture war, and it just isn't.

    People are focused on Wall Street corruption and arrogance, not the culture war. The only way American Christianity is going to be adversely affected by this is if Evangelicals continue to behave as if wealth is any indication of whether someone is righteous. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with rich people; I hope to be one some day. We have behaved as a country, however, as if greed were a virtue. Leading the charge have been the health and wealth gospel crooks.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptical stated: It never starts with jail or overt silencing. It starts when those in power imply that you're not fully American unless you're a Bible-believing Christian."

    Response: You've not only introduced a new issue, but are headed down a rabbit trail.

    skeptimal said...

    Let me get back on the subject then.

    All I can tell you is that from the other side of the fence, no one that I know and respect is looking at this as a referendum on the "culture war."

    August said...

    Skeptimal, thanks for the comments, but it seems as if you are either woefully uninformed about cultural history, or simply naive.

    You have not offered any counterarguments, but have simply regurgitated the same talking points that have been around for the last 50 years. Despite your assertions to the contrary, conservative Christian values have all but disappeared from all cultural areas. It is exactly because Christians have done what you suggested, basically being in retreat, that this has happened.

    If this election was about something else than the culture war, then why did the Democrats pick the radical Obama instead of a more moderate Hillary Clinton? Since you want to imply that this is merely about economic policy, then why not pick Hillary who had a much more substantial offering on the table than Obama? But the economic issue was not even on the table at the time of the Democrat primaries, so your argument really holds no water. It was plain and simply picking the most radically liberal candidate on the ticket, and that is about to happen in the presidential election too.

    You seem to live in some kind of make-belief land where there are no deeper ideological considerations. Your ignorance does not change the fact that coming through the enlightenment and with the advent of modernism and postmodernism, Christian values have increasingly disappeared from Western culture. It is easily demonstrated and well documented.

    Obama, if elected, will further marginalize Christians values through his support for homosexual marriage and late term abortion.

    These issues are well-known, and are determining factors in how Christians vote. Therefore, while people may know it or not, they are part of the acceptance or rejection of those non-Christian positions, in essence a referendum in the culture war.

    skeptimal said...

    “…it seems as if you are either woefully uninformed about cultural history, or simply naive.”

    I don’t think either of these applies, but I *am* getting my information from outside the closed loop of Republican-Evangelical discussion. Regarding naivete, consider that we’re on opposite sides of the culture war: you want Evangelical control of government and culture and I want pluralism. Naivete’ on my part would be thinking that Evangelicals are going to suddenly realize that shared power is in everyone’s interest.

    “Despite your assertions to the contrary, conservative Christian values have all but disappeared from all cultural areas. It is exactly because Christians have done what you suggested, basically being in retreat, that this has happened.”

    Your reaction seems to be further evidence that you are getting most of your information from Evangelical- and Republican-controlled news sources. 2006 was the first year in the past 28 years that there was not an advance in Evangelical control of our governments and our culture. Even as Evangelicals were claiming to be a persecuted minority in 2000, 2002, and 2004, they locked up control on the majority of state governments and all three branches of the federal government. The media run like cowards from the right wing, afraid that they will be labeled as “unfair and biased” if they dare to question the word of any Republican or Evangelical. If I didn’t know you were serious, I’d think you were pulling my leg to say Christian values have waned.

    “If this election was about something else than the culture war, then why did the Democrats pick the radical Obama instead of a more moderate Hillary Clinton?”

    I didn’t say that this was all about economic policy; I said it was about anger at the manipulation, intimidation, and deception by the Republicans and the disastrous results of the policies they’ve put forward. Had Clinton won and McCain picked a serious vice president, I think a lot of us would have voted for McCain rather than anoint another person who, like Bush, felt they were entitled to the presidency because of their last name.

    “You seem to live in some kind of make-belief land where there are no deeper ideological considerations.”

    And you seem to live in a black-and-white world where there can be no ideological considerations apart from preventing abortion and gay rights.

    “while people may know it or not, they are part of the acceptance or rejection of those non-Christian positions, in essence a referendum in the culture war.”

    This is part of the traditional Evangelical arrogance. Because *you* are focused on two limited issues, then everyone else’s decisions are necessarily based upon those two narrow issues too. Do you honestly believe anyone thinks that this ONE election is going to decide the culture war, when it will be only the second one in the past thirty years or so that has not increased Evangelical political control?

    I'm not saying you're going to like the results of this election, but the rest of us apparently have more faith than you do that your people will be able to continue grabbing power and shutting out the rest of us well into the twenty-first century. That's irony we should both be able to enjoy.

    August said...

    C'mon skeptimal, what "closed loop of Republican-Evangelical discussion"? What is that? Where is it? You seem to want to justify your comments and position on trying to bracket and label the opposing position as some vaguely defined conspiratorial and isolated view or group. Furthermore you want to imply that you are the informed and knowledgeable one because you get your information from elsewhere. Your responses here have continuously indicated that you are uninformed about the history of the enlightenment, modernism and post-modernism, or that you are not articulating that well around those issues.

    If you would care to study those topics, you will already know that the effects of those ideologies include the creation of a two-tiered system of cultural elements at one tier, and "faith" at another. This has been so for many years, with the only difference being the time it has been so. In science it has been so for longer than in education, for example.

    Obama clearly believes in the post-modernist two-tier structure, the underlying assumption of the culture war: "But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry." Is that from inside the "Republican-evangelical discussion" too?

    skeptimal said: Your reaction seems to be further evidence that you are getting most of your information from Evangelical- and Republican-controlled news sources. 2006 was the first year in the past 28 years that there was not an advance in Evangelical control of our governments and our culture. Why don't you go ahead and name all the things that "evangelical control" brought to bear in our culture? I can name many Christian elements that disappeared. In fact, why don't you start by naming the elements of culture, and then list what Christian elements remain or are being advanced in those areas.

    skeptimal said: "Even as Evangelicals were claiming to be a persecuted minority in 2000, 2002, and 2004, they locked up control on the majority of state governments and all three branches of the federal government." What are you talking about? Even if this was true, you are making a couple of key mistakes. The first is that you want to equate Republicans with evangelicals. All Republicans are not evangelicals. And all evangelicals are not Republicans. Your second mistake is that you want to equate all of culture with government. Again, why don;t you tell us what you think culture entails.

    skeptimal said: "The media run like cowards from the right wing, afraid that they will be labeled as “unfair and biased” if they dare to question the word of any Republican or Evangelical. If I didn’t know you were serious, I’d think you were pulling my leg to say Christian values have waned." Well, I seriously don't know which planet you live on. You are kidding with this statement, right? If not, I'll be happy to oblige and show you the extreme media bias against anything Christian and conservative.

    skeptimal said: "And you seem to live in a black-and-white world where there can be no ideological considerations apart from preventing abortion and gay rights.. Nope, wrong again, but just shows your complete lack of understanding of the whole culture war issue. As always, when this comes up, people like you want to paint Christians as one or two issue people who fail to see the bigger picture. The reason those issues keep coming up is because they are the only ones left on the table which still moderately reflect Christian values. Everything else has already been purged of anything Christian, and as I mentioned in my original post, has been replaced with a default atheistic position, as demonstrated by your answers here. The Christians are the narrow-minded ones, the intolerant ones, the "black and white" ones, the ones who don't want to share power etc.

    skeptimal said: "This is part of the traditional Evangelical arrogance. Because *you* are focused on two limited issues, then everyone else’s decisions are necessarily based upon those two narrow issues too." As mentioned above, you seem to be completely new to this issue and respond just to say something. I already explained this above. But you do have to get in a dig about "arrogance". Well ok, but your response is just typical atheistic arrogance, claiming to know all and using insult and invective to try and paint Christians as arrogant and uninformed. You have not provided, in 5 responses to this thread, any facts that disproves my original thesis. In fact, you have provided plenty of evidence to support it.

    skeptimal said: "Do you honestly believe anyone thinks that this ONE election is going to decide the culture war, when it will be only the second one in the past thirty years or so that has not increased Evangelical political control?" That is not what I said. I said that due to the pressure brought on Christian values over the last 50 years especially (but starting way before that), this election will be a referendum on how far those values have been eroded from American society. And you have yet to show how any so-called evangelical control in government (a premise I strongly deny) has prevented the erosion of Christian values from our culture as a whole.

    skeptimal said: "I'm not saying you're going to like the results of this election, but the rest of us apparently have more faith than you do that your people will be able to continue grabbing power and shutting out the rest of us well into the twenty-first century." Actually skeptimal, I'm starting to think that you are responding just because you like to stir people up. This statement of your has no grounding in fact. I know that the non-believers are forever lamenting their victimhood, but the facts simply just do not bear that out. For example, name me one professor that has been denied tenure because he is not a Christian? Or one actor that couldn't get a job because he was an atheist? Or one teacher fired for being an atheist? Or one judge? Or one journalist? Name one tv show removed because it was atheistic? Or made fun of Christian values? One politician censured for being an atheist?

    So please, I am waiting to see some examples of "power-grabbing" and shutting people out. I can provide many examples to the contrary, where Christians have been told to shut up about their faith, or removed when they didn't.

    Despite your denials and assertions, you have still not demonstrated any understanding of the culture war. Your assertions about my lack of insight or knowledge remain just that, blind assertion. Labeling me as part of some hypothetical group doesn't do much either, you know nothing about me, not even whether I vote Republican or not. (I don't).

    It is time for you to demonstrate that you actually know something about culture and societal history, not just regurgitating atheist talking points on the issue.

    skeptimal said...

    Sorry it’s been a while. I would have let it go after so long, but I didn’t want to be accused let your challenge go.

    August said: “C'mon skeptimal, what "closed loop of Republican-Evangelical discussion"? What is that? Where is it?”

    The closed loop is Christian media, talk radio, and Fox News. You don’t have to worry when you tune in to any of these “information” sources, because you know every problem will be blamed on liberals, Democrats, (and for the past couple of years, even moderates). The only art in these media is how every news event is an excuse to hate non-conservatives more.

    “If you would care to study those topics, you will already know that the effects of those ideologies include the creation of a two-tiered system of cultural elements at one tier, and "faith" at another.”

    I’m sorry you feel that not letting government endorse religion somehow marginalizes it.

    Obama clearly believes in the post-modernist two-tier structure, the underlying assumption of the culture war…”I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things.”

    There is nothing threatening in this statement. Creationism may or may not be the truth, but it isn’t science. Science opens itself up to critical thinking, and creationism is only believed by people who’ve already decided to ignore any evidence to the contrary. I’m not saying that scientists don’t have their prejudices, but they *will* open their theories to peer review. For creationism and Christianity, doubt is a sin.


    ”Why don't you go ahead and name all the things that "evangelical control" brought to bear in our culture? I can name many Christian elements that disappeared. In fact, why don't you start by naming the elements of culture, and then list what Christian elements remain or are being advanced in those areas.”

    I have to assume you’re joking. Evangelical church membership is growing. There are churches growing like weeds in the southern cities especially. We have a major television network devoted to ridiculing anyone who doubts conservative “values.” Bill O’Reilly and others have made a career out of making vicious personal attacks on liberals and non-Christians. The Christian music industry flourishes. Christian bookstores are sometimes easier to find than inclusive bookstores. In several states, constitutional amendments have been passed for the specific purpose of preventing rights for a minority whom Christians despise. The military is run by Evangelical Christians to the point that our air force inductees have been told that part of their mission is to convert each other to conservative Christianity. Atheist soldiers have been harassed in Iraq by fellow Americans because they didn’t conform. All it took to energize the Republican Party was to nominate an Evangelical vice presidential candidate. Anyone who questions her highness’ dubious qualifications is accused of sexism or belittling her religion. In 2005, Christians were so in control of our government that a very painful and private medical issue (Terry Schiavo) dominated government discussion for an entire week because it was seen as an abortion-related issue. Increasingly, Christian doctors and pharmacists are permitted to deny treatments they disagree with based on religion, even to the point of refusing to refer their patients for valid medical issues like birth control. And as for my confusing Evangelicalism with Republicanism, name me some Evangelical leaders who vote Democratic? Name me a Republican who would proudly challenge Christian superstitions?

    Now I’ll turn the challenge on you. Name some instances where Christians in America have been limited in their ability to practice their religion? I’ve issued this challenge to Evangelicals before, and they always name instances in which their ability to dictate the rules for non-Christians is limited.

    Mike said...

    Here is a prophesy from kim clement, i assume a well known christian who regularly receives prophetic words and visions. He said this on 6/17/2007, almost a full year and a half before the election;
    "God says, "A President that I will bring into the White House--they will say he is ungodly--he does not know God. Even as Jesus disguised Himself for the great feasts, so I've disguised this man's heart. When he comes to the White House, not only shall he be Mine, but he shall pray as a man that has never prayed in the White House. That same man shall put his feet onto this platform. They will say, how did this take place? Laws shall change. Young men and young women will have access into the Kingdom and with authority into politics and with authority into the industries that now have been controlled by darkness because of this man that shall rule for two terms. Do not fear; there will be no unnecessary stuff. There will be things that men shall question. Fear not, for he shall sit in that seat, and suddenly My Spirit shall come upon him and baptize him with a fire and with anointing,&q uot; says the Spirit of the Lord. "No more war. The time for war has gone. The time for Peace has come. The House that you call White shall receive a man, a knight, who fought for you in your nights."

    So the lesson here is that although Pres-elect Obama looks like the most un-Christian like candidate on the outside, God has everything under control. Be reminded that it says in the Bible that no one who is in power in the world today or at any point in history got there without God allowing them.

    may the peace of God be with you all.