THE END OF CULTURE
ENTER-- THE DAY OF THE BEAST AND THE WRATH OF GOD?
The following article was distributed by Pastor John Helgerson of Church of the Open Bible in Burlington, Mass. The article was first authored by Dr. Richard Flanders in Christian View of the News, Norman Pyle, Editor, Vol. 23, No. 2, Feb. 1998. After discussion of the present situation in the USA and the world, we will look at another author from the past on the subject of culture. This should be a very controversial discussion with some readers. Please read it all before you react.
THE CHURCH AND THE CULTURE
Most Americans believe that our culture is decay ing, and that moral decline
presents the greatest danger we face. Writers and speakers from different
positions on the philosophical or political spectrum have commented with dismay
upon this decadence, and preachers have given many sermons on it. Hardly anything
can serve to verify for the public mind the authority of the Bible more than the
cultural decline of our country over the past thirty-five years. Actually, the
downward slide began much earlier than this, but the rapidity of the descent has
greatly increased since the middle sixties. Anyway, Romans 1 has been illustrated
before our eyes. Truth without righteousness has led to the darkening of the mind.
Darkened minds have perverted truth. Perverted truth has brought moral weakness,
which has given way to sexual immorality and perversion. Now we see more and more
the fruit of "a reprobate mind"
that acknowledges no God or moral law and allows for every kind of cruelty, wickedness,
and evil. It's all Romans 1.
The Bible calls the moral decay that results from unheeded and then rejected truth "corruption." In the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 31 and 32 the word for "corrupt" in the phrases "ye will utterly corrupt yourselves" and "they have corrupted themselves" is a word that has the idea of decay. Moses was given a song to teach the Israelites that would serve as a warning against the cultural and spiritual corruption that comes when God and His Law are neglected.
Believers in the true God must always be concerned about cultural corruption because at its root it is rejection of divine authority. But believers are also interested in saving souls, and so many in our times have been willing to forget about the culture in order to bring sinners to the church. This strategy is a great mistake and has denied many a ministry the blessing of God.
is widely accepted among evangelicals that if cultural corruption is resisted
by churches, the unsaved we are trying to reach will be "turned off" by our antiquated
ways and unwilling to listen to our message. Isn't there a way
to preach the Gospel
in language and with trappings acceptable to modern man? A Christian youth movement
years ago used the slogan "Anchored to the Rock: Geared to the Times." Cannot
the church be geared to the times while still anchored to the Rock? Sadly, however,
when we gear the Gospel to the times, we can end up floating downstream with the
flow of cultural decadence while trying to win as many souls as we can before
we all go over the falls of societal collapse. This scenario is accept able to
some Christians, but
it does not represent
the will of God for His church. We ought to preach the Gospel and uphold all the
rest of God's truth at the same time. The churches should seek to preserve people
In no area are evangelical churches going along with cultural decay more than in the field of music. More and more (probably most) supposedly orthodox churches today are inviting people to come and hear their "con temporary" music. Actually the style called "Contemporary Christian Music" can be more accurately defined as rock'n roll! Some of it is hard rock; some is soft rock; some is "rockabilly;" some is 1950's or 1960's rock but all so called CCM is rock music.
When pressed about this issue, young church musicians admit that the genre is rock, but they argue that musical style is a neutral medium that only the words convey a message. Of course no true artist will say that his art conveys no message. Every serious painter or composer believes that some philosophy or statement is being communicated through his art. The creators of the rock'n roll style of music always claimed that their songs expressed the revolutionary themes of a new generation, rebellion against authority, and abandonment of sexual restraints. Not only have the originators of this style defined its message in this way, but also the best analysts of cultural decline have recognized this as the meaning of rock.
In 1987. Professor Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago wrote what the Chicago Tribune said "may be the most important work of its kind by an American since World War II." It is a book with the title, THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND , and it deals in depth with the role of higher education in the current cultural decline. A whole chapter early in the book is given to "Music." Professor Bloom observes:
Judge Robert Bork was kept from serving on the United States Supreme Court, but he has not been kept from commenting on our cultural and moral decline. His latest
book, SLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH, has been widely read and acclaimed, and has brought the former Yale University law professor and U.S. Court of Appeals justice to the forefront of public discussion. In his book, he repeatedly refers to the role of rock music in our society's problems. He says in the Introduction that the rock songs of the sixties were among the "harbingers of a new culture" that overcame the old and took over the country. Later in the book he says that this music joined with other factors that "intensified the rebelliousness of the young."
Anyone who has read Bork's book, or Bloom's best seller (and most evangelical leaders have) understands the corrupting character of rock music. WHY THEN DO CHURCHES USE IT?
Another form of capitulation to the cultural decay is the wholesale abandonment of the Bible of our forefathers by the "forward-looking" churchmen of our day. Many have been consumed by a passion to please modern textual scholarship and to make the language of Scripture clear and appealing to an educationally weak public. As a result, they have lost sight of the significance of the King James Bible to American culture. Amazingly accurate in its translation of the traditional Greek and Hebrew text, and profoundly exquisite in its classical English style, the old Bible is one of the marvels of all time. Its phrases and verses have been woven throughout our literature for many years, and its moral precepts have long been the foundation of our society. However, the proliferation of "new versions" of the Bible and the eagerness of clergymen to use them have served to dethrone the monarch of books in America, and have driven its lofty lines from American minds and publications.
New translations have not helped our people understand the Bible as much as they have confused them about the Bible. Fewer recognize Bible passages as each year passes, and even fewer try to memorize them. Without a standard English version of the Scripture, how can anyone quote the Bible with any accepted consistency? The Bible played a big part in American culture for a long time, but no longer. The fault must largely be placed upon the churches that have run after the latest Bible fad instead of preserving the old Bible at least for its cultural importance. The courts did not remove God's Word from its once prominent place in our public life, the churches did, in their mad dash to keep up with the times.
Recently, a very famous evangelist lamented on television the fact that the great successes of his crusades over the years had produced no visible effect on the moral decline of his country. The reason for the sad truthfulness of this observation is the general unwillingness of evangelicals to resist the corruption of our society from an unswervingly Biblical standpoint. Extreme examples of the decay, such as legal abortions and assisted suicide, are protested by some when enough non-Christians share their moral outrage. But these same evangelicals and fundamentalists are often involved in other ways in the very corruption of society that has produced the extremes. Certainly every church ought to stand in every community as an institution that resists cultural decay.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour. wherewith shall it be salted? it is thence forth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matt. 5:13)
Culture can be lost.
Leonard Verduin, in Somewhat Less Then God, page 140-145, discusses how culture can be sterilized, how people then rebel against their masters who forbid them a culture, and he talks of how Christians are to influence culture, not rule it.
A second evil, one of equally great proportions, occasioned by the distortion that made Christianity into a culture-religion, was what we have ventured to call cultural sterilization. By this we mean that technique whereby a sizable segment of society was denied the right of cultural expression. In the heyday of Christendom. Europe was, of course, full of people who, although christened, were in the modality of fallenness. Such people could not contribute to a genuinely Christian culture; of course not; they were, however, prevented from cultural expression in a way consistent with the set of their souls. Such people were simply silenced. Think, for example, of the Index under the terms of which only the things permitted by the Church were allowed to appear in print. Think of the periodic book-burnings. Think of the hundred and one ways in which suppressed spirits, in an attempt to escape from cultural sterilization, sought to circumvent thought-control in the days of Christendom. Think of the troubadours, the Chambers of Rhetoric, to recite but these two examples of agonized attempts on the part of an element in medieval society to find a way of expressing itself culturally in spite of Christendom's censors.
Needless to say, these restrictions by which a large section of the society of the times was rendered culturally sterile were resented. Man is by definition a culture-creating creature and every attempt to sterilize him in the matter will be bitterly resented as bitterly as mass emasculation would be resented. Small wonder that a frightful backlash of resentment built up. Small wonder that, when it could no longer be restrained, it broke forth in devastating fury, a fury that left the land strewn with wreckage. What was the French Revolution if not a sudden and violent bursting forth of long-standing resentment against centuries
A culture-religion cannot grant freedom of conscience. No culture- religion ever has granted it. At best it can be tolerant and that only after a fashion, as long as to be tolerant does not pose a real threat to its hegemony. The very word tolerant is intolerant; it is part of the verbal equipment of intolerance; it is a word that has meaning only in the context of a culture-religion. He who is merely tolerant is simply a person who sets limits to cultural sterilization, limits that stop nicely short of the danger point. A culture-religion is by definition suppressive, whether it be Buddhism or Shintoism or Islam or Christendom. The last named has as bad a record as any, perhaps a worse record than most. Authentic Christianity, however, does not feed tolerance; it feeds freedom, freedom of speech, of assembly, of utterance: best of all, of conscience; it provides the freedom to disbelieve.
Every culture is proud and
more or less disdainful of other cultures. This is quite inescapable, man being
the creature of culture that he is. A culture is the achievement of a population
group its biggest, its total, achievement. When Christianity was reduced to a
culture-religion, when it
became the religion
of a total population group,
picked up this pride, this disdain for other cultures. Our classic example of
cultural snobbishness is, of course, the Israel of the Old Testament. The world
has seldom seen greater cultural snobbishness than that which characterized the
population group in the midst of which Jesus lived. It was Jesus' refusal to be
part of it a matter in which John the Baptist had been the way-preparer that set
the rank and file of this population group against him. (Recall how, according
to Luke's ac count, Jesus met His first rebuff when in the synagogue at Nazareth
No culture-religion can be missionary; at least not in the New Testament sense. The "missionary" activity of a culture-religion, also of Christendom, is a matter of annexation, subjugation, military subjugation if need be, and then integration into the cultural enclave out of which the "missionary" came. Such was the "mission" of pre-Christian Rome; such was the "mission" of Islam; such was also the "mission" of medieval Christendom. A classic example may be had in the "mission" of Spain in the New World, where a representative of the ruler of the cultural enclave stepped ashore to claim the area for "His Majesty, the King of Spain"; a padre was on his heels to plant a cross; and a token baptism took place whereby the total populace was "christened." But this is not to mission in the New Testament sense. To mission in the New Testament sense is to go to parts where Christ is not yet named and to "get lost" there; quite literally, to become a member of that other cultural entity, never to be seen in the homeland again save for some much needed, and deserved, recuperation.
Our classic example of a culture-religion, with averseness to
mission in its New Testament sense, is, of course, again, the culture-religion
out of which Jesus, and His Church, emerged. It knew no mission, not even "a mission"
(for it despaired of military conquest and consequent cultural annexation). It
was Sr. Paul's repudiation of the un-missionary culture-religion and his espousal
of mission in the New Testament sense that made him to be hated by his countrymen.
Recall how that, even though Paul was speaking to them in Hebrew, as a concession
to the cultural sensitivities of his hearers, they took off their coats and threw
dust into the air, a sure way to get mob action started in the society of the
day, as they hollered, "Away with such a fellow from the earth!" Why? What had
the speaker said? This: "And he said to me: 'Depart, for I will send thee far
hence unto the Gentiles' "that is, "He sent me
There seems to be a connection also between the notion that Christianity is a culture-religion and a tendency toward racism. It is surely no coincidence that the grossest racists in the southeastern areas of the United States have been extremely religious folk, in the sense of being firmly committed to Christendom (whether firmly committed to the religion of Jesus Christ is another matter). No political party of the past century has been more outspokenly committed to a culture-religion than were the Nazis, and none has been as unashamedly racist. No population group has ever been more committed to the idea of a culture-religion than was the population group out of which Jesus came, and none was ever more racist. They were known for their slogan, "It is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation" (Acts 10:28). We know that Peter's racism was severely reprimanded during the vision on the housetop, but he was dull of hearing in the matter, for he, long after, was found to "draw back and separate himself' even though "before certain men came from James lie ate with Gentiles" (Galatians 2:11 ff.). Medieval Christendom was strongly racist; it taught explicitly that to enslave a "Saracen" was altogether permissible just so it was not one of the cultural enclave. What is this but an ancient form of the "Herrenvolk" delirium which does not become less delirious for being called "the white man's burden" or baasskap or "guardianship." Paul was an arch-racist and a tank segregationist until the Master divested him of the notion that Christianity is a culture-religion; then he chided, in public, a colleague, Peter, for talking out of both sides of his mouth, now as a person who ate with other ethnic groups and anon as one who did not.
The opposition the early Church experienced,
opposition that sent men into the catacombs if not to the lions, was not inspired
by any resentment against Christian doctrine. It has often been represented that
way (especially by advocates of Christendom), but erroneously. The early Church
ran into trouble, not for its doctrine of the incarnation, not for its belief
in the resurrection, not for the doctrine of the
After all, Jesus did not run into opposition because of the deep spiritual truths He uttered; He ran into opposition led by religious bigots who were addicted to a culture-religion. When they realized that Jesus was not minded to support them in this addiction, they conspired to put Him to death. Their argument before Pontius Pilate hinged on the assertion that Jesus was a threat to the cultural heritage.
It was no different with Paul. He too was resented because he had abandoned the culture-religion of the Jews. He had, said they, "brought Greeks into the temple." They began to bellow with rage when Paul reported that the voice of God had said, "Behold, I send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." The Jewish leaders of his day realized full well that if Paul were allowed to continue, then the religion of Jehovah would no longer be the private property of their cultural enclave (in this they were dead right) and for that reason they counted it their religious duty to liquidate Paul.
Much, if not most, of die hard going the Church of Christ encounters to this day is due to the fact that Christianity is looked upon as a culture-religion. Much of the present-day hardship suffered by the emissary for Christ is due to the fact that he is caught in a Kultar kampf, a struggle between two contending culture-religions.
If those who speak for Christ could convince themselves that the religion they follow is not a culture-creating one but a culture-influencing one, then the situation would alter itself at once. Does it speak for itself that one has to run for cover at once for announcing the Gospel? Is it a foregone conclusion that when we bind up the wounds of men, give sight to the blind, make their deaf to hear and their lame to walk, and cause their poor to hear the Gospel, so proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, that then forthwith men pick up stones wherewith to stone us? We think not.
Editor: Steve Van Nattan- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- Leonard Verduin has stated a very urgent fact. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was NOT delivered by the Apostles to cure social ills, to revolutionize political woes, or to establish democracy. Nor did Paul interfere in Israeli political or social problems, as Falwell and Robertson are doing. The Apostolic Gospel is addressed to sinners who need to repent and be converted. How they live after that will be between them and the Holy Ghost within their culture. The Spirit of God knows very well what is profane and must be rejected in any given society.
Our problem is, in the USA today and in much of the world, that Christendom has abandoned the Gospel and has turned, at best, to saving the culture and enforcing Old Testament law. This is the message of the Reconstructionists and Jerry Falwell. At worst, that part of Christendom known as the Charismatic movement and some others, have abandoned the Gospel AND culture, and they are offering only sensual entertainment and sensational feely feely religion. This is a cut below Verduin's discussion, for he wrote this book in 1970. Today, missions and the Gospel are a satellite blasting the world of people who have no TV to watch the show, while back in Kansas gullible idiot Christianettes weep for joy as the likes of Paul Crouch and Pat Rubberhead Robertson make grand claims of masses and masses of conversions in North Africa.
Not only is culture gone or sterile, Gospel is also gone. Religion is now reduced to walking the labyrinth at the Episcopal Church or having a Holy Ghost orgasm at the front of the church in Brownsville.
Question: How would a Holy God get the attention of such a people?
Answer: Destroy their material and boogie woogie world with disaster. History has left in its wake a long line of degenerate cultures who are now extinct or living a meager subsistence. Witness the Inca, Aztecs, Sumer, the Hittites, and Egypt. In our day, Spain is the classic. It went from great glory in the 1600s to a very weak state today. Also, look at England. She has lost her empire, and today life there is very dull compared to the glorious days of the East India Company and Britannia. Barely 1% of the English even attend place of worship. Life goes on, but British products are not in demand in the world. Her culture is symblolized by fish and chips, and her policy is to meddle in world finances to see if she can get back some form of feudal acre to call her own.
Thus: Impending disaster is now bearing down on the USA. It may be total economic collapse and default, terrorist gas and bio-attacks, martial law, revolution and the dissolution of the union of states, riots against the nations's bankers, tax and militia rebellion which will cripple the economy, or even natural disaster which would cause economic bankruptcy. True Bible believers will suffer along with the masses of mental and social midgets as they get their just deserts. Also, Bible believers may have one last opportunity to get back to proclaiming the glorious Gospel to poor lost sinners just before the end times events take place, most notably, the Rapture of the Lord's Church.
Or will Christendom hold a world conference on mission? The motto-- "Give the world a nickel, a pickle, and John 3:16 by the year 2000." It will be carried on TBN and worldwide TV, and Bill Gothard will sell a big red book on how to do it. Robert Schuler will have pickle juice squirting from his big four fountains in Garden Grove, CA. Millions of people will be mailed a nickel and a pickle along with a John 3:16 glow-in-the-dark photo suitable for framing (available in NIV only). Ken Gott of Blunderland Chapel will get a revelation and vision of huge green pickles floating up to heaven and back every Sunday as long as the offerings hold up. Send to Rodney Howard Browne for your laughing pickle bumper sticker. Please designate with or without garlic. Tony Campolo and Bill Clinton will sponsor a drive to, "Seize the pickle." Al Gore and Billy Graham will issue a joint statement that, "Pickles have feelings too you know." The Pope will issue a Papal Bull "Taurus Fundiator" allowing priests to use Polish dill slices as Hosts in the Mass.
Sanctus, sanctus, in excellsis dillum.