Is there a ‘Culture War?’


It seems that – at least among evangelicals – the concept of a culture war is a popular discussion topic these days. There are books imploring Christians to move beyond the culture wars, while there are other writers saying that the essence of being an evangelical is being at war with the culture. Of course, all of this begs the question of whether or not there really is a culture war to begin with. With all the debates over abortion, homosexual rights, sex/cursing on television (violence is apparently okay), national healthcare, and the like, it would appear we have two different cultures that are at war with each other. However, I think the answer is more of a “no” than a “yes.”

In the strictest sense of the word “culture,” there isn’t a culture war mostly because Christianity isn’t a culture. There is no Christian language, no Christian food, no Christian style of dressing up, no Christian nation or borders; there is nothing distinct about Christians that would make them a culture. Even one of the most unified groups within Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox, still hold cultural differences; it’s found in their liturgy, the language of the liturgy, and even some of the practices. Thus, one can’t even say there is a culture within a very unified Christianity, because ultimately Christianity reflects the culture.

If Christianity isn’t a culture, then it’s impossible to have a culture war involving Christian beliefs against secular beliefs. Christianity simply isn’t a culture, this is why there are distinctions between Christians who grew up in Southeast Asia and Christians who grew up in the Southeastern United States. These differences, or distinctions, aren’t wrong or bad, they simply reflect different cultures.

At the same time, something does seem to be going on. But something has always been going on. One of the most famous writings in all of Christian literature is St. Augustine’s City of God. In the book he defends Christianity and explains how Christians are not the cause of Rome’s demise; in other words, just a few centuries after Christ’s death, Christians are engaged in a “culture war.” We can go back even further to the Epistle to Diognetus in which the anonymous author (probably Justin Martyr) defends Christians within the Roman cultural context, arguing that they’re not out to subvert the culture, but to redeem it. Even in Christianity’s foundation, we see Paul saying that we are citizens of Heaven and even Jesus saying that we are in the world, but not of the world. We can go back even further and see that the Israelites developed their own culture contrary to the cultures surrounding them (or at least they were supposed to; what brought on the judgment of God was that they adopted the cultural mores of the surrounding cultures). Even Noah was a “culture warrior” of sorts in that he went against the grain of his time.

So does the above prove that we are, in fact, involved in a “culture war?” Not really, instead what we’re involved in is what early Christians called “The way of life” and “the way of death,” or the way of light and the way of darkness, or the City of God and the City of Man. There isn’t a cultural war, but there is a human war. There is a war against God, one in which humans have rebelled and thusly reap the consequences. Therefore, all cultures are fallen and have negative aspects to them; even the supposed mythic “Christian America” is full of flaws. Even if we follow the idealized version of this supposed Christian America, we see that the poor are not taken care of, it’s primarily composed of white, English-speaking people, and people who are not Christians are often looked down upon as inferior. Such elements to a culture run contrary to the central message of the Gospel.

Christians are not involved in a culture war, but they are called to sanctify the culture they find themselves in. What has sparked the controversy for Christians is they’ve chosen to go about this act of sanctification through a secular tool, which of course will always result in disaster. By attempting to legislate the culture into perfection, we’ve only alienated the culture more. This is not to say that some things shouldn’t be pursued through legislation; on issues of natural law, we should attempt to get the government to enact laws that reflect what is naturally right (e.g. abolition of slavery, working to end human trafficking, abolition of abortion, working to curb pollution, etc). Yet, as Christians we are called to change the world from the ground up, not from the top down. Thus, even when we are justified in pursuing legislation to change a government action, we are still best served by working with the populace on a grassroots level to help change their minds; even William Wilberforce saw this, and for all the effort he put into legislation he put three times the effort into public awareness campaigns.

In attempting to sanctify the culture, Christians then find themselves in a war, but it is not a “culture war.” To call it a culture war would indicate an “us vs. them” mentality, that it’s the Christians vs. the secularists. But as Paul stated, we don’t war against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness. We therefore enter into a war, but not against our fellow humans – though they may be ensnared and enslaved by these principalities – instead we enter into a war against darkness itself. While most Christians would give this lip service, their actions speak otherwise and we do not truly live out this concept. We say we don’t war against the flesh, but then we condemn, marginalize, and mock all those who disagree with our positions.

Ultimately, Christianity is not a culture, but a way of life that can adapt itself to any culture. Thus, there is no culture war. But Christians are called to sanctify a culture – not through legislation (though it can act as a minor tool on natural law issues), but through bringing people to Christ by being Christ to people.

Advertisements

The End For Which the World Was Made


This is the first chapter for a book I am writing (What Sinners Dare Not Dream). I am attempting to tell the Gospel, from creation to where we are supposed to be. This chapter simply focuses on the purpose for creation and how it was done. I welcome any critiques or comments. I especially welcome anyone who notices major grammatical errors (keep in mind that this is casual writing; though it irks me to begin a sentence with “and” or “but,” it is preferred in casual writing). 

God Creates

 

Into the darkness, the vast void of nonexistence, the Lord spoke and the material world began its existence. It is impossible for us mere humans to fathom what nothingness is, a place – if nothingness can even be a place – where there is no light, no feeling, no vacuum of space, no warm or cold, no real darkness; nothingness. Yet, God chose to fill the void and create something. But why would God create anything?

Did God create the material and spiritual worlds because He needed to create? Did He do so because He was lonely? Perhaps He just wanted to see if He could actually do it, like a child that climbs a rope just to say he reached the top. If God needed to create, than He was not God prior to creation because He had not fulfilled His purpose – and this begs the question, who or what gave Him that purpose to begin with? If God had to create because He was lonely, then He is not Trinitarian. If we are merely God’s attempt at self-satisfaction in His own power, to see if He could accomplish something, then our purpose is really purposelessness, as He has seen what He can do and has now abandoned us.  Thankfully, none of the above scenarios are true.

The Bible makes it clear that God created for three reasons: His own pleasure, to display His glory, and to display His love. God created to gain enjoyment out of His creation, but also so intelligent beings within His creation could see how glorious He is and how much He loves His creation.

The first and primary reason God created all things was for His pleasure. Revelation 4:11 (KJV) states, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” All the things that we can see and observe were created for the pleasure of God. All things in the spiritual realm were likewise created for His pleasure.

What does the Bible mean when it says “pleasure” though? Are we simply pawns God uses in order to gain selfish enjoyment? No, this is not what Scripture means, for such a god would be contrary to the God of Scriptures, such actions would go against His loving nature. Rather, the Greek word used in Revelation 4 is thelema, which refers to a purposeful pleasure. That is, all things were created to fulfill the purpose God had for humankind. In short, God created all things in order to fulfill a purpose.

What an astonishing thought about creation that is often ignored. God takes enjoyment out of creation; He created in order to enjoy it through fulfilling a purpose. Creation alone is not sufficient for fulfilling God’s purposes – the sacrifice of Christ is also necessary, as shall be seen in later chapters – but it is a necessary component. In order for God to display His purpose with creature (namely, humans), He must first create.

Continue reading

Does Naturalism Aid the Environment?


Cross posted at Uncommon Descent 

 

One of the biggest issues trends in the West – especially in America – is for people to go ‘green’ in what they do. Whether it be from getting a hybrid vehicle, to eating organic foods, to just installing energy efficient light bulbs, it is not considered chic to be ‘green.’

Though I happen to believe this is just a trend (I believe American society, at least the younger generation as a whole, to be nihilistic, narcissistic, and ‘empty-selves,’ thus concern for something other than themselves won’t last long), it is a trend that is much needed in the current world. I think all can agree that humans in the last two centuries have done a horrible job being good stewards of the environment.

On quick look at the Los Angeles skyline and we can see exactly what pollution can do. Global Warming aside, the fact does remain that Co2 emission is harmful for the environment and humans (look at asthma rates per capita in bigger cities as opposed to those in the country). This also doesn’t ignore the landfills that are constantly taking up space, the burning of fossil fuels, the toxic waste dumps that are harming land, and just random trash being strewn about on the sides of the road. Humans have done an absolutely horrible job at taking care of this world. Continue reading