In addition to direct biblical resources we should also draw upon the many historical resources and authors, such as the early church fathers like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas who wrote the foundation for much of today's church doctrine, or Martin Luther and John Calvin who gave birth to the Protestant reformation and established the foundations of modern evangelical Christianity. These perspectives help us to better understand our own theology and individual beliefs about God and how we as Christians should live.
Consider others in history like William Wilberforce, the man credited with the abolition of slavery in England and author of Practical Christianity in the 19th century or C.S. Lewis who has written some of the greatest works addressing many similar cultural issues facing us today. Reading these authors can help us better understand the application of biblical truth to those common areas of social and cultural conflict. The list of godly men and women that have gone before us is endless and the knowledge that God has provided through their experience and lives is priceless and worthy of pursuit.
It is this deeper understanding of scripture, doctrine, and theology as well as its relevance to all of life that the writer of Hebrews is addressing when he says,
"So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don't need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don't need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding."
The writer is clearly stating that we are to continue to grow in our knowledge of God's revealed Word and His world and how to live in it. We must take our understanding of scripture beyond the context of religion and apply it to all of reality; everything in the world falls under God's authority and everything is subject to God's design.
When we understand and embrace these broader truths we are able to move from merely living subject to the fallen world and the fundamental secularism that now controls it, to being transforming agents of redemption - salt and light. We become people whom God uses to transform the world; to bring truth, justice and freedom to all areas of God's creation, strengthening the Church and transforming the arenas of business, politics, science, education and the arts. All of these areas are of concern to God and our mandate given in Genesis to exercise dominion over all of God's creation still stands today.
The essential fact is this: the spiritual conflict is fought on the cultural battlefield in profoundly intellectual terms. It is a battle in which, on one level, our adversary, the Devil, seeks control of God's creation, including society for the purposes of deceiving men and leading humanity away from the truth. I am not suggesting that we can win someone into the Kingdom of God through purely reason and intellectual arguments, but 2 Corinthians 10:5 does tell us that false arguments or ideologies can keep people from knowing God and therefore we are commanded to tear those arguments down; to utterly and completely destroy these false pretensions. This is not a physical effort but an intellectual effort like Paul "reasoning" with the Greeks and the Jews. This is precisely the issue that confronts us when addressing the legitimization of homosexuality or the mainstreaming of pornography or any other moral issue. Our response must be rational, reasonable and persuasive and less reliant upon religious rhetoric.
J. Gresham Machen, the professor of New Testament theology at Princeton in the early 1900s and defender of the Christian faith who led in the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, put it this way:
"False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation...to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root."
This demands a rational and intelligent effort certainly
guided by the Holy Spirit. However, a mind not surrendered to
the Holy Spirit or committed to the intellectual disciplines of
faith in Christ will not be effective in this Holy work; a work
to which we are all called. If we ignore this work we permit these
false ideas to become established. Because they are false and
the ideological opposite of Christianity, Christianity then becomes
irrelevant. It is relegated to something for the weak minded or
non-thinking masses. Christianity may be "tolerated"
for a time, but it most certainly will not be admitted into the
public square to influence public policy and the moral consensus.
What is worse is that this perceived irrelevance ultimately hinders
the advance of the Gospel.
Part 4 of 5, to be continued...
This essay is available in the 27-page booklet,
The Christian Mind: The Key to Cultural Relevance and Renewal
by S. Michael Craven by calling the National Coalition at 513-521-6227
© 2006 S. Michael Craven, All rights reserved. For reprint permission contact Philip Barnett at [email protected].
S. Michael Craven is the vice president for religion & culture at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families and leads the work and ministry of Cultural Apologetics. Through the Cultural Apologetics ministry Michael works to equip the Church to assert and defend biblical morality and ethics in a manner that is rational, relevant and persuasive in order to recapture the relevance of Christianity to all of life by demonstrating its complete correspondence to reality. For more information on Cultural Apologetics, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.CulturalApologetics.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.
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