Beyond Culture Wars - by Michael Horton
"The purpose of government was to guarantee the freedom of each 'sphere' to accomplish its God-ordained function...It was the government's business to make certain that the nation was adequately defended against aggression and was capable of limiting the ravages of crime and enforcing civil laws guaranteeing safety and liberty. The purpose of the government was not to define the family or the role of the church, as it is now doing with the help of conservatives and liberals alike."
"To look to heaven is to look not to the things which our hands have made, nor to ourselves, nor to causes and movements, ideologies or strategies, for our salvation; but neither is it to look within or above for general spiritual realities, but to look to that hill in history where God's foolishness triumphed over man's wisdom that afternoon outside the gates of Jerusalem."
"John [in reference to 1 John 2:15-16] is not calling us to hate the people; nor does he want us to hate culture, education, science, the arts, and so on. It is not the world per se, but the vanity, materialism, and narcissism of the world that the apostle condemns."
"...we often confuse these kingdoms and believe, if only subconsciously, that salvation does come through our efforts in the building of the city. Our whole modern era has been an experiment in this idea: restoring Eden (world peace and an end to suffering and pain, disease and poverty) ourselves, with our own bare hands, through the activities of culture (politics, morality, science, technology, the arts, education, etc.). But even conservative Christians find this vision alluring. Instead of proclaiming salvation by calling on the name of the Lord, we see salvation in terms of accomplishing political or moral victories and making America a "Christian nation," as Israel of old. But there are no Christian nations, ultimately. There are nations that are influenced and shaped by Christian beliefs and values to varying degrees, but there are no special nations on earth anymore."
"Even in America, we are in exile. Our nation does not correspond to Israel in Scripture, but to Egypt. All nations are "Egypt" to the believer."
"It cuts across the grain of our modern sentiments to think that God exists for His own happiness, not ours, and that we, in fact, are merely part of that universal design to bring pleasure to the Holy One of Israel."
"If there is no theology, there can be no morality..."
"We ought not to be surprised that everything is being questioned in the realm of morality, since there is no longer any theological infrastructure undergirding it. Liberals attacked orthodox theology, while conservatives largely ignored it, so what more could we expect? This generation is simply riding on fumes. We cannot expect people to accept Christian morality if they are not at least intellectually persuaded by Christian truth. The greatest needs we have are theological, and the greatest of these is forgiveness."
"Today, we no longer believe that humanity needs to be saved from the wrath of God as much as we believe in the salvation of America from a loss of pride and self-esteem. We see that objective terms of moral improvement."
"...is the diet in sermons, books, tapes, and broadcasts self-help, inspirational, moralistic, political, end-times-ish, or something else other than the preaching of the Law and Gospel - in short, something other than the preaching of Christ and Him crucified?"
"...Nebuchadnezzar learned that his kingdom really belonged to someone else. One wonders if the church today needs to learn this lesson again: that the kingdom is created by, sustained by, and exists for God and His glory. To the extent that we shift the focus of the kingdom from God to man, to that extent it will simply become a social institution. To the extent that we believe that the source of the kingdom is power (i.e., economic or political crusades) or marketing (i.e., principles of business success), it is to that extent that our message and methods will be concerned not with 'our Father in heaven,' but with 'our Audience on earth.' And for those who think that the nature of the kingdom is temporal and earthly, their activity will be more concerned with imposing their own will on society in pursuit of the 'Christian nation' idea of the kingdom."
"Are we living at a time when the kingdom, power, and glory of God are championed? Or, instead of the glory of God, is the glory of self our occupation? Judging by the average Christian bestseller list, the latter. All this business about God's kingdom, power, and glory might run counter to a church that is so worldly that believers are actually encouraged to become, almost as an act of piety, 'lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud..., lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:1-5)."
"Have we become so 'down-to-earth' that we have snapped our chord connecting us to the heavenly realities? Are we so 'with it' and 'relevant' that we are simply echoing popular culture and are, therefore, irrelevant? And is the goal of this kingdom we are building God's glory? Whatever goals we might consider worthwhile (providing a sense of community and fellowship, assisting families in building good, solid homes, improving the moral and spiritual climate of the country, meeting 'felt needs,' or even building big churches) are a distraction, in competition with God Himself."
"Paul...reaches out to them by taking the trouble and the time to get to know and understand their culture. These things are obvious to many missionaries, but we do not think of ourselves as missionaries in America, but as soldiers on the American battlefield, and that is our problem. We speak 'Christian-eze' because that's comfortable to us. We have a whole empire of Christian books, tapes, TV, and radio with a tiny fraction of non-Christians ever tuning in (happily). Are we really doing it for the world, or are we doing it for ourselves? If we really did put the Gospel first, and if saving souls were as important as we say it is, we would push aside all obstacles and dig in to try to understand our culture as best we can. Instead of putting our culture off and fighting it (while taking its worldliness on board), we would be trying to persuade unbelievers of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, while serving a positive, constructive purpose in society, at the post to which God has called us."
"We must recover the art of persuasion. The reason that America is so secularized today is not because of public policy, but because of public belief. We must win arguments, not just cases. We must be willing and ready to give everyone an answer as never before, and this means that we will have to become better listeners - humbler, and more (dare I use this much-abused term?) tolerant of other people's points of view. We do not have to agree, but we do have to understand; otherwise, there can be no persuasion."
"One of the reasons secularism became such a powerful force was that theological proclamation was not central in the church's witness..."
What if this was what we portrayed to our society -
"In recognition of our sins against God and our neighbors, by seeking our own interests and confusing our own aspirations with the will of God, we ask for your forgiveness. Our witness has often been marked by our own greed, power, scandal, self-righteousness, and competitiveness even with each other. We have not modeled the life of God's kingdom, nor have we served our chief purpose in terms of proclaiming the eternal realities which give hope and meaning to our lives here and now. When you came to our churches for bread, too often you were given stones. When you sought water to quench your eternal thirst, we were too busy with secondary pursuits. As we have received God's forgiveness, we ask for yours. And if you want to give us another hearing, we would like to get to know you - regardless of your ideology, politics, beliefs, or values. We may not agree with you, but this time you'll hear something about God and His kingdom. this time, we'll give you bread. We promise."
"To be sure, it is not in itself a placebo for getting the ear of our culture, and it may be perceived as a false humility, but surely this ought to be our attitude, and not just our public relations campaign, before a watching but cynical world that so desperately needs to hear what only the church can tell it."
"We cannot expect those who do not hold Christian convictions to accept the values those convictions convey, nor can we be surprised when the values of secularism follow the triumph of secularization in society generally."
From article by Irving Kristol in The Wall Street Journal:
"It is one thing to deplore abortion, or to believe there is something inherently wrong, even sinful, about it. But it is quite another thing to demand that the secular authorities enforce a theologically defined 'right to life' policy. This policy is politically unacceptable to the majority of the electorate, however ambivalent their feelings. "
(Could also be said regarding homosexuality and the same-sex marriage debate)
"Does this mean that we do not seek the end to abortion through political means? I, for one, do not draw that conclusion. The movement to abolish slavery was fueled by Christian concerns, but there was a sufficient consensus among Christians and non-Christians alike, after a great deal of labor in persuasion, to secure a political victory. If one concludes that abortion is the taking of an innocent life, as I do, it is surely not beyond the role of the state to protect such life by force. Nevertheless, we should take Kristol's point seriously and ask ourselves if by pouring all of our money and energies into political solutions alone, we have ignored the deeper cultural crisis which renders abortion and similar acts of moral anarchy socially acceptable even among Catholics and evangelicals who are supposed to prize life the highest."
"...should challenge us to recover our own homes from the clutches of secularization. We must ask ourselves whether we are doing all that we can to teach our children the Scriptures and whether we are passing down to them a body of well-defined beliefs and a coherent worldview."
"It is a recovery of the Christian faith within the church itself, not the imposition of Christian values over a hostile society, that holds the only possibility for meaningful change."
"...if we are really to recover our sanity in this increasingly pagan environment and become 'salt' and 'light' once more, we will have to pour our energies into re-educating ourselves in the basics of the Christian faith, develop a deep and lasting sense of meaning and purpose, understanding the fundamental arguments for our faith, and then pass these down to the next generation."
"...it is time to make American Christians more orthodox, and not just anti-abortion; to pour our energy and resources into building solid Christian homes and grounding people in 'the deep truths' of the Word (1 Timothy 3:9), instead of trying to get secularists to embrace the values which run counter to their creed."
"...the church has made peace with the very culture upon which it has declared war. The church embraces the culture's secular notions of human nature, the meaning of life, self-fulfillment, and so on, while eschewing the values such a human-centered orientation inevitably produces."
"...reformation must begin in the church, and ecclesial reformation itself must begin with the recovery, not of ethics, but of theology."