Aliens in a strange land

Anthony Sacramone at Strange Herring gets serious, issuing a manifesto, of a sort. Read it all at the link, but here are excerpts:

The time is coming when Christians of all stripes must consider what it means to be a nation within a nation, alien residents, not in a secular culture but in a culture actively hostile to its most deeply cherished beliefs and values. The time is coming when Christians are going to have to come to terms with being an alternative culture within the larger one. And that is going to mean giving greater attention to their schools and hospitals. . . .

For too long Christians assumed that this was a Christian nation, filled with likeminded people who would, despite Hollywood and the mainstream media and a few academics on the margins, would ultimately see their values prevail, due to the much advertised American exceptionalism. Time to reconsider. Time to stop being so complacent. The barbarians are not at the gate — they’re in the house.

This is not a call for a retreat into the woods, for ratcheting up the paranoia or building bomb shelters or stocking up on guns. That’s an admission of defeat, that the God we worship is not greater than the principalities and powers of this world.

It is a call for a celebration of, and respect for, life — new life, elderly life, disabled and handicapped life — and a call for the repristination of our hospitals and schools and libraries and elder-care facilities. We can no longer take for granted that the secular institutions will support our beliefs and values. On the contrary: We must assume they are immersed in a worldview that puts the Naked Personal Will at the center of everything. Narcissism is the prevailing ethos, and that which does not reflect back its own image will be marginalized if not destroyed.

Many non-Catholics are looking to Catholics right now because they have a history of creating such an alternate culture in this country. In the late 19th century, when public schools in big cities began putting sound citizenship at the forefront of its pedagogic agenda, it was with an eye toward de-Catholicizing recent immigrants. And so Catholics resisted by constructing their own schools, hospitals, nursing homes. They created institutions that would preserve and transmit their beliefs and their culture from generation to generation.

Other denominations did as well: Lutherans have their parochials schools and Presbyterians and Methodists built their hospitals and colleges. But do these institutions still see their Christian roots as their ongoing source of life, or have they paved over their living foundation and replaced the stained glass with mirror images of their secular counterparts in order to appeal to a broader swathe of the population just to keep their doors open?

We must also keep in mind another part of Catholic history: The historical counterparts of those people I playfully call barbarians were once upon a time converted. And the contempory variety still may be. We must keep that in mind always. They too are made in the image of God. Their lives are also threatened by the rising tide of irrationalism and nihilism. The Church, in all its institutional manifestations, must be seen as the ark of salvation, a real refuge, an authentic alternative, and not just a kitschy knockoff of worldly diversions.

What would this look like, I wonder? We have schools, homeschools, and colleges. While it’s true that many Christian schools just imitate the secularist curriculum with a little religion thrown in (which is often undone by the rest of the courses), classical Christian education has made a comeback–including here at Patrick Henry College– and is beating the secularists in their own terms, namely, academically. Founding hospitals is a good idea, though the prospect of socialized medicine, which may require performing abortions is making existing Catholic hospitals think they may have to close their doors. Fundamentalists have and are trying to establish parallel cultural institutions (businesses, media, a music industry), but that hasn’t gone too well. But maybe that just needs to be done better, emulating classical culture rather than the pop culture.

One thing I know we need to focus on: Rebuilding the culture requires rebuilding the foundation of every culture, the family. Whatever the state does to the institution of marriage, Christians need to build solid, happy, permanent marriages among themselves. Whatever the pop culture does to mess up children, Christian parents need to raise solid, happy, growing children.

Notice that this all, including converting the barbarians, requires recovering the doctrine of vocation!

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    He’s writing to an American, or at least very western audience. I think there are quite a few concrete examples of what it is like for Christians “in a culture actively hostile to its most deeply cherished beliefs and values.”

    India is a great example – exploding numbers of Christians in a culture that is most definitely actively hostile. One native pastor I “know”, described how it was to deal with beatings and attacks on a regular basis. He said it was sort of like ordering a pizza here in the states – once a week or once every couple of weeks you get a pizza. For him, once a week or every couple of weeks he gets beaten. It’s part of life; he expects it and continues on with his speaking of Christ.

    I don’t know if physical persecution of that level is anywhere in the forecast for America, but for other types of hostility, I think we can draw the same lesson. Whatever form the hostility takes, we continue on preaching the Gospel of Christ. The details and methods will vary, but the main goal stays in front of us to give us the direction we should go.

    Be it orphanages, church plants, Bible schools, missionaries, medical care, or some other thing – the main goal needs to be to continue to declare the good news of Christ.

    Some/Much of what Sacramone described came from losing focus on the main goal and instead focused on building patriotism, social stances and behaviors, and purer denominations. Those things all have breaking points which might come to pass in a more hostile culture.

  • WebMonk

    He’s writing to an American, or at least very western audience. I think there are quite a few concrete examples of what it is like for Christians “in a culture actively hostile to its most deeply cherished beliefs and values.”

    India is a great example – exploding numbers of Christians in a culture that is most definitely actively hostile. One native pastor I “know”, described how it was to deal with beatings and attacks on a regular basis. He said it was sort of like ordering a pizza here in the states – once a week or once every couple of weeks you get a pizza. For him, once a week or every couple of weeks he gets beaten. It’s part of life; he expects it and continues on with his speaking of Christ.

    I don’t know if physical persecution of that level is anywhere in the forecast for America, but for other types of hostility, I think we can draw the same lesson. Whatever form the hostility takes, we continue on preaching the Gospel of Christ. The details and methods will vary, but the main goal stays in front of us to give us the direction we should go.

    Be it orphanages, church plants, Bible schools, missionaries, medical care, or some other thing – the main goal needs to be to continue to declare the good news of Christ.

    Some/Much of what Sacramone described came from losing focus on the main goal and instead focused on building patriotism, social stances and behaviors, and purer denominations. Those things all have breaking points which might come to pass in a more hostile culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    Great post! This is right on top of a number of things that I have been thinking lately. I agree with most of what Sacramone says, though I think stocking up on guns is still a good idea.

    One other point to consider: Government has become much more invasive of these basic cultural institutions (schools and hospitals) to the extent that they claim dominion de facto. You can build your own school, but only if you meed the codes, regulations, and accreditations established by the government. Likewise also with hospitals. Not only is this regulation, done in the name of “the children,” ominous, but it has made it increasingly and even prohibitively expensive to operate these institutions.

    This calls for wisdom.

  • Dan Kempin

    Great post! This is right on top of a number of things that I have been thinking lately. I agree with most of what Sacramone says, though I think stocking up on guns is still a good idea.

    One other point to consider: Government has become much more invasive of these basic cultural institutions (schools and hospitals) to the extent that they claim dominion de facto. You can build your own school, but only if you meed the codes, regulations, and accreditations established by the government. Likewise also with hospitals. Not only is this regulation, done in the name of “the children,” ominous, but it has made it increasingly and even prohibitively expensive to operate these institutions.

    This calls for wisdom.

  • Bruce

    Sacramone is describing an outcome that might look a certain way, but these things always build from the grassroots, and thus always eventually look different than what we imagine. What the doctrine of vocation tells us is that God will take care of the outcome; we just have to faithfully be servants, doing whatever our hands are given to do.

    All in all, I prefer pizza every week or two over a beating. But I think the Lord is indeed preparing our minds and hearts for something less drowsy and somnambulant, shall we say, than what we’ve enjoyed these many decades past.

  • Bruce

    Sacramone is describing an outcome that might look a certain way, but these things always build from the grassroots, and thus always eventually look different than what we imagine. What the doctrine of vocation tells us is that God will take care of the outcome; we just have to faithfully be servants, doing whatever our hands are given to do.

    All in all, I prefer pizza every week or two over a beating. But I think the Lord is indeed preparing our minds and hearts for something less drowsy and somnambulant, shall we say, than what we’ve enjoyed these many decades past.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    All I can say is it isn’t the Roman Catholic church as it manifests itself today that we should be looking too, but the early church and how it dealt with being a persecuted minority. I think we also need to stop longing for the “good old” days when the government ruled by “Biblical Principles.” I’m not sure that the Constatinian Era was all that great for the Christian Church. (Though one might argue that it did a lot of good for society in general. But in the process it confused Christianity with laws, and the church became a bully in the political arena. I think it might behoove us as Christians to mind our own affairs quietly, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians.)
    The post Constatinian Era will not be the same as the Pre Constatinian era. But we Christians living now have a lot to learn about engaging society with the Gospel and God’s word, rather than with laws from the Pre Constatinian era.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    All I can say is it isn’t the Roman Catholic church as it manifests itself today that we should be looking too, but the early church and how it dealt with being a persecuted minority. I think we also need to stop longing for the “good old” days when the government ruled by “Biblical Principles.” I’m not sure that the Constatinian Era was all that great for the Christian Church. (Though one might argue that it did a lot of good for society in general. But in the process it confused Christianity with laws, and the church became a bully in the political arena. I think it might behoove us as Christians to mind our own affairs quietly, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians.)
    The post Constatinian Era will not be the same as the Pre Constatinian era. But we Christians living now have a lot to learn about engaging society with the Gospel and God’s word, rather than with laws from the Pre Constatinian era.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good post, but I agree with Bror that Roman Catholic institutions (health care centers and schools) are also too far gone along secularist lines to be any great fortress (by the way, most Lutheran institutions are not too far behind if behind at all). This starts with your own family, being a good neighbor (buy and grow local?), and supporting your local Christian congregation – attending every Sunday (while holding your pastors’ and local church leaders’ feet to the fire of faithfulness to the Word of God – in a kind way, please, if you will).

    Support Lutheran and other Christian schools too, but parents need to begin demanding much more than high SAT scores and well funded extracurricular activities. Usually if those two are in place there is little care as to faithfulness to the Word of God nor to the soundness of texts being used to shape the minds of our children.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good post, but I agree with Bror that Roman Catholic institutions (health care centers and schools) are also too far gone along secularist lines to be any great fortress (by the way, most Lutheran institutions are not too far behind if behind at all). This starts with your own family, being a good neighbor (buy and grow local?), and supporting your local Christian congregation – attending every Sunday (while holding your pastors’ and local church leaders’ feet to the fire of faithfulness to the Word of God – in a kind way, please, if you will).

    Support Lutheran and other Christian schools too, but parents need to begin demanding much more than high SAT scores and well funded extracurricular activities. Usually if those two are in place there is little care as to faithfulness to the Word of God nor to the soundness of texts being used to shape the minds of our children.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    No, no, no. Our goal is not to rebuild culture, it is to build the church. To be sure, the cult is the center of culture (as Schmemann suggested), but all that is to say is that culture naturally springs up around the cult.

    The alien society is the church. Culture will not be rebuilt until the church is revitalized. As I tell my conservative friends — the way the Christian wins the culture war is by receiving the Word and the sacraments.

    My conservative friends think that my recommendation is foolishness. And so it is. But all else is vanity and idolatry.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    No, no, no. Our goal is not to rebuild culture, it is to build the church. To be sure, the cult is the center of culture (as Schmemann suggested), but all that is to say is that culture naturally springs up around the cult.

    The alien society is the church. Culture will not be rebuilt until the church is revitalized. As I tell my conservative friends — the way the Christian wins the culture war is by receiving the Word and the sacraments.

    My conservative friends think that my recommendation is foolishness. And so it is. But all else is vanity and idolatry.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jim,
    “And so it is.” 1 Cor. 1:23 (ESV)
    but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

    It will never make sense to the world. The world operates on law, it has too. The Church can’t afford to, we have the Gospel, and it is much better.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jim,
    “And so it is.” 1 Cor. 1:23 (ESV)
    but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

    It will never make sense to the world. The world operates on law, it has too. The Church can’t afford to, we have the Gospel, and it is much better.

  • Peter Leavitt

    When Christians hunker down inside assorted church confines and give up trying to influence politics and culture, however decadent, they are seriously mistaken. Luther understood this with his conception of the Two Kingdoms, both of which were under the rule of God. He didn’t argue that Christians should abandon the Left Hand kingdom to the whims of any secularists. He worked closely with Frederick the Wise’s government to insure that both kingdoms were consonant with God’s law.

    What’s needed in the face of these very real, hard edged secular savages is an alliance between orthodox and evangelical Christians, including Protestants and Catholics, along with Orthodox Jews, that will stand up firmly in the public square. Hunkering down and whining in provincial denominations is exactly what is not needed.

  • Peter Leavitt

    When Christians hunker down inside assorted church confines and give up trying to influence politics and culture, however decadent, they are seriously mistaken. Luther understood this with his conception of the Two Kingdoms, both of which were under the rule of God. He didn’t argue that Christians should abandon the Left Hand kingdom to the whims of any secularists. He worked closely with Frederick the Wise’s government to insure that both kingdoms were consonant with God’s law.

    What’s needed in the face of these very real, hard edged secular savages is an alliance between orthodox and evangelical Christians, including Protestants and Catholics, along with Orthodox Jews, that will stand up firmly in the public square. Hunkering down and whining in provincial denominations is exactly what is not needed.

  • kerner

    Hunkering down and whining in provincial denominations is the polar opposite of what is being recommended here. This goes back to Jesus command to be the “salt of the earth”. Salt, in food, is a small part of the mass, but it changes the flavor of the whole meal throughout. This is what is meant by going back to the basic building blocks of society, and preserving (as well as generating new) social institutions of our own to overcome the world.

    Allying with other Christians to stand up in the public square? Sure, when it’s appropriate. Allying with non-Christians to make the culture better in a natural law sort of way? I think that’s appropriate too, as long as we don’t compromise our faith in the process. But I don’t know why you picked Jews as the favored non-Christians. Frankly, when the Californians shot down gay marriage last year, the Mormons were leading that charge. And I’ll bet you every conservative Muslim voted with conservative Christians on that point. When it comes right down to it, whoever wants to jump on the natural law bandwagon is welcome as far as I am concerned, when it comes to specific issues. But we can’t let the lines of the law and gospel get blurry for the sake of these “alliances”. That is a huge danger.

  • kerner

    Hunkering down and whining in provincial denominations is the polar opposite of what is being recommended here. This goes back to Jesus command to be the “salt of the earth”. Salt, in food, is a small part of the mass, but it changes the flavor of the whole meal throughout. This is what is meant by going back to the basic building blocks of society, and preserving (as well as generating new) social institutions of our own to overcome the world.

    Allying with other Christians to stand up in the public square? Sure, when it’s appropriate. Allying with non-Christians to make the culture better in a natural law sort of way? I think that’s appropriate too, as long as we don’t compromise our faith in the process. But I don’t know why you picked Jews as the favored non-Christians. Frankly, when the Californians shot down gay marriage last year, the Mormons were leading that charge. And I’ll bet you every conservative Muslim voted with conservative Christians on that point. When it comes right down to it, whoever wants to jump on the natural law bandwagon is welcome as far as I am concerned, when it comes to specific issues. But we can’t let the lines of the law and gospel get blurry for the sake of these “alliances”. That is a huge danger.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, Peter, I am a little confused along with Kerner as to who is recommending hunkering down inside of assorted Christian confines and give up influencing politics and culture, here.
    Yet, I am also perplexed as to why you think Christian influence has to be by law? As long as the Church is here in this world it will influence as it has politics and culture. The Early church was very influential in politics and culture though, without having to resort to societal sanctification by legislation.
    The unique gift the Church has is not specially ordained laws of God. God ordains all government, Christian or no. Remember Romans 13 was written in reference to a very pagan Caesar. Pagan governments are able to have perfectly acceptable laws to govern the public peace. What the church has is the gospel, the forgiveness of sins. Funny, early Christians used to be persecuted on account of that article of faith. Now we get heat for trying to make society conform to our norms of good social behavior. We lost something in the Constantininan era. I’d like to go back to the days when we were persecuted for believing in the forgiveness of sins. At least then you know that you are engaging society not with legislation, of which they have enough, but with the gospel, and that is true evangelization. When the church is influencing the culture with the gospel, then it is truly being the salt of the earth. The world has law enough if you ask me.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, Peter, I am a little confused along with Kerner as to who is recommending hunkering down inside of assorted Christian confines and give up influencing politics and culture, here.
    Yet, I am also perplexed as to why you think Christian influence has to be by law? As long as the Church is here in this world it will influence as it has politics and culture. The Early church was very influential in politics and culture though, without having to resort to societal sanctification by legislation.
    The unique gift the Church has is not specially ordained laws of God. God ordains all government, Christian or no. Remember Romans 13 was written in reference to a very pagan Caesar. Pagan governments are able to have perfectly acceptable laws to govern the public peace. What the church has is the gospel, the forgiveness of sins. Funny, early Christians used to be persecuted on account of that article of faith. Now we get heat for trying to make society conform to our norms of good social behavior. We lost something in the Constantininan era. I’d like to go back to the days when we were persecuted for believing in the forgiveness of sins. At least then you know that you are engaging society not with legislation, of which they have enough, but with the gospel, and that is true evangelization. When the church is influencing the culture with the gospel, then it is truly being the salt of the earth. The world has law enough if you ask me.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Peter,

    If you write off receiving the Word and the sacraments as “hunkering down and whining,” then we have a lot more to discuss than can take place in a blog’s comment section.

    The question isn’t whether to affect culture and politics, it’s how to affect culture and politics. Your suggestion is that Christians need to do more of what they’ve been attempting to do since the 1970s (or even since the 1960s, after the school prayer decisions) — play power politics.

    Yet the “culture” has been dramatically and radically transformed for the worse over that period. You suggest that the solution is “the same as we’ve been doing, except more of it.”

    I’d instead suggest that the model of “power politics” is a deformed model.

    IMHO, U.S. Christians depended on an ostensibly “Christianed” culture to do the work that their ecclesiologies ought to have been doing. So when the culture took a nosedive, it took a lot of churches as well, because we depended on culture for a generic type of quasi-Christian discipleship and were not used to understanding ourselves as communities centered around Word and sacrament.

    “Cult” is the root of “culture.” If the Christian cult is not the center of this culture, then it is an idolatrous culture that the Christian must live in, but not be a part of.

    The only way to revitalize culture is to revitalize the cult. And that always and only means Word and sacraments transforming lives.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Peter,

    If you write off receiving the Word and the sacraments as “hunkering down and whining,” then we have a lot more to discuss than can take place in a blog’s comment section.

    The question isn’t whether to affect culture and politics, it’s how to affect culture and politics. Your suggestion is that Christians need to do more of what they’ve been attempting to do since the 1970s (or even since the 1960s, after the school prayer decisions) — play power politics.

    Yet the “culture” has been dramatically and radically transformed for the worse over that period. You suggest that the solution is “the same as we’ve been doing, except more of it.”

    I’d instead suggest that the model of “power politics” is a deformed model.

    IMHO, U.S. Christians depended on an ostensibly “Christianed” culture to do the work that their ecclesiologies ought to have been doing. So when the culture took a nosedive, it took a lot of churches as well, because we depended on culture for a generic type of quasi-Christian discipleship and were not used to understanding ourselves as communities centered around Word and sacrament.

    “Cult” is the root of “culture.” If the Christian cult is not the center of this culture, then it is an idolatrous culture that the Christian must live in, but not be a part of.

    The only way to revitalize culture is to revitalize the cult. And that always and only means Word and sacraments transforming lives.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, I’m not arguing for any sort of Constantinian, caesaropapism Christian rule; rather for a strenuous religious presence in the public square. A good example of this recently involved the conservative Catholics who opposed the abortionist, Obama’s invitation to the Notre Dame commencement. Another excellent example is the Evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon influence that defeated Proposition Eight in California.

    Luther and Calvin in their day, while building strong churches on the basis of the Cross, were closely involved in cultural and political matters. While differing in some respects,they both understood that Christians should be closely involved in state as well as church matters. The Two Kingdoms are far from being mutually exclusive.

    Orthodox Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, et al need to make their voices loud and clear in the public square. We, also, need to take the gloves off in this very real cultural war.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, I’m not arguing for any sort of Constantinian, caesaropapism Christian rule; rather for a strenuous religious presence in the public square. A good example of this recently involved the conservative Catholics who opposed the abortionist, Obama’s invitation to the Notre Dame commencement. Another excellent example is the Evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon influence that defeated Proposition Eight in California.

    Luther and Calvin in their day, while building strong churches on the basis of the Cross, were closely involved in cultural and political matters. While differing in some respects,they both understood that Christians should be closely involved in state as well as church matters. The Two Kingdoms are far from being mutually exclusive.

    Orthodox Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, et al need to make their voices loud and clear in the public square. We, also, need to take the gloves off in this very real cultural war.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I can commend the Catholics for standing on their convictions and upholding the sanctity of life. I sort of like people who can stand on conviction.
    However, I don’t know that I at anytime want to be lumped together with Mormons, Muslims, and Jews. Nor do I think the passing of laws is the best example we can have for having a religious presence in the public square.
    Homosexual activity was quite a common practice in the Roman Empire about the time of Paul. And though he preached against it and admonished Christians not to engage in it, he didn’t go around campaigning for laws against it.
    Is that seriously the limits to our imagination as to how to engage society today? Is that really what we want the secular world to think of us, that we are no different than Muslims, Jews, or Mormons, that we don’t have any other message for the world than law? No wonder we are dying off and losing traction in society. What do us Christians hope to accomplish with this so called culture war? The 1950s? A “Leave it to Beaver” Society? You can have it.
    I think we would do better to engage society with soup kitchens, food banks, orphanages and the like.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I can commend the Catholics for standing on their convictions and upholding the sanctity of life. I sort of like people who can stand on conviction.
    However, I don’t know that I at anytime want to be lumped together with Mormons, Muslims, and Jews. Nor do I think the passing of laws is the best example we can have for having a religious presence in the public square.
    Homosexual activity was quite a common practice in the Roman Empire about the time of Paul. And though he preached against it and admonished Christians not to engage in it, he didn’t go around campaigning for laws against it.
    Is that seriously the limits to our imagination as to how to engage society today? Is that really what we want the secular world to think of us, that we are no different than Muslims, Jews, or Mormons, that we don’t have any other message for the world than law? No wonder we are dying off and losing traction in society. What do us Christians hope to accomplish with this so called culture war? The 1950s? A “Leave it to Beaver” Society? You can have it.
    I think we would do better to engage society with soup kitchens, food banks, orphanages and the like.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, soup kitchens et al are fine, though that is really the favored approach of liberal Christians who avoid the serious cultural issues including those of homosexual marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research, to say nothing of the squelching serious religious voices in the public square. The secular barbarians love it when do-gooding Christians confine themselves to charitable causes.

    Paul’s situation in ancient Rome and elsewhere during the very early days of Christianity was rather different than today in the West that has a strong tradition of Christendom being a major cultural and political influence. Again, think of Luther working with Frederick the Wise in Saxony and the Evangelical Wilberforce who ended slavery in Britain.

    I’m all in favor of Christians working hard in the right-hand kingdom, though we ought not avoid our serious obligation in the left-hand one, even in our modern pluralistic set up.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, soup kitchens et al are fine, though that is really the favored approach of liberal Christians who avoid the serious cultural issues including those of homosexual marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research, to say nothing of the squelching serious religious voices in the public square. The secular barbarians love it when do-gooding Christians confine themselves to charitable causes.

    Paul’s situation in ancient Rome and elsewhere during the very early days of Christianity was rather different than today in the West that has a strong tradition of Christendom being a major cultural and political influence. Again, think of Luther working with Frederick the Wise in Saxony and the Evangelical Wilberforce who ended slavery in Britain.

    I’m all in favor of Christians working hard in the right-hand kingdom, though we ought not avoid our serious obligation in the left-hand one, even in our modern pluralistic set up.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    You found me out, I’m a liberal.
    Actually, a look at history will show that often it was the liberal churches who got involved in all the “serious issues” in a political way. They had no gospel, just politics, “the progressive gospel.” In fact, liberals and fundamentalists often have that in common. Once they lose the gospel, all they have left is politics (law). Kissing cousins.
    And when I said we would do better to engage society with soup kitchens than with passing laws, I was more making a comment on the futility of the approach you want to take than I was on the merits of soup kitchens.
    Now, one might argue that actually our day has a lot more in common with Paul’s day in the early church than it has with Luther and Fredrick the Wise’s day. And quite frankly I prefer it.
    However, Luther set a very wise precedent for us Lutherans and was not willing to compromise in doctrine in order to align with others in the world politic. I think of Marburg, and the desire of Philip of Hesse to have a pan protestant league. Some things are just to important. The Gospel is one of them.
    Can’t save anyone by passing a law. Can’t sanctify society by passing a law. The law has its uses, but it also has its limits, and they ought to be heeded. Luther knew this well, read “On Secular Authority.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    You found me out, I’m a liberal.
    Actually, a look at history will show that often it was the liberal churches who got involved in all the “serious issues” in a political way. They had no gospel, just politics, “the progressive gospel.” In fact, liberals and fundamentalists often have that in common. Once they lose the gospel, all they have left is politics (law). Kissing cousins.
    And when I said we would do better to engage society with soup kitchens than with passing laws, I was more making a comment on the futility of the approach you want to take than I was on the merits of soup kitchens.
    Now, one might argue that actually our day has a lot more in common with Paul’s day in the early church than it has with Luther and Fredrick the Wise’s day. And quite frankly I prefer it.
    However, Luther set a very wise precedent for us Lutherans and was not willing to compromise in doctrine in order to align with others in the world politic. I think of Marburg, and the desire of Philip of Hesse to have a pan protestant league. Some things are just to important. The Gospel is one of them.
    Can’t save anyone by passing a law. Can’t sanctify society by passing a law. The law has its uses, but it also has its limits, and they ought to be heeded. Luther knew this well, read “On Secular Authority.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@14), can you see the irony here? On one thread, you berate us Protestants (but not including yourself; you have an out for “family reasons”, I guess) for not being ecumenically minded, as we insist on our (Biblically derived) litmus tests.

    And yet here you are lambasting “liberal Christians” for not passing your own collection of litmus tests. How divisive of you! Why can you not overlook these differences with your fellow Christians and seek unity with them?

    It would appear that you consider “cultural issues” more important than the presence of false doctrine among those groups you deem “serious” — up to and including Jews and Mormons! I mean, at least liberal Christians have the potential of having the Gospel. And yet you praise those who have no gospel at all! What a curious stance.

    “The secular barbarians love it when do-gooding Christians confine themselves to charitable causes.” Yes, well, that’s a false choice, isn’t it? Bror said nothing about “confining” ourselves merely to such things. Clearly Bror isn’t afraid to preach the full Law as well. But that’s not the question. The question isn’t “do we give up preaching the Law”, but rather, “Do we enact our beliefs as laws for those who do not share our faith?”, and, subsequently, “If so, what does that tell unbelievers about Christianity?”

    But rather than chasing down the “let’s enact laws to make them know what we believe” path, I’d like to submit that we should not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth, and live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Just my opinion, though.

    Your wiggling in re: “Paul’s situation” being “rather different” hardly convinces. Your argument seems to be one of: We (that is, at least nominal Christians) used to be in charge here, thus we should pretend we still are, or demand to be put back in charge, no matter how things have changed.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@14), can you see the irony here? On one thread, you berate us Protestants (but not including yourself; you have an out for “family reasons”, I guess) for not being ecumenically minded, as we insist on our (Biblically derived) litmus tests.

    And yet here you are lambasting “liberal Christians” for not passing your own collection of litmus tests. How divisive of you! Why can you not overlook these differences with your fellow Christians and seek unity with them?

    It would appear that you consider “cultural issues” more important than the presence of false doctrine among those groups you deem “serious” — up to and including Jews and Mormons! I mean, at least liberal Christians have the potential of having the Gospel. And yet you praise those who have no gospel at all! What a curious stance.

    “The secular barbarians love it when do-gooding Christians confine themselves to charitable causes.” Yes, well, that’s a false choice, isn’t it? Bror said nothing about “confining” ourselves merely to such things. Clearly Bror isn’t afraid to preach the full Law as well. But that’s not the question. The question isn’t “do we give up preaching the Law”, but rather, “Do we enact our beliefs as laws for those who do not share our faith?”, and, subsequently, “If so, what does that tell unbelievers about Christianity?”

    But rather than chasing down the “let’s enact laws to make them know what we believe” path, I’d like to submit that we should not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth, and live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Just my opinion, though.

    Your wiggling in re: “Paul’s situation” being “rather different” hardly convinces. Your argument seems to be one of: We (that is, at least nominal Christians) used to be in charge here, thus we should pretend we still are, or demand to be put back in charge, no matter how things have changed.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Okay, Bror, I’ll read Secular Society.

    I agree with you that the fundamental issue lies with saving souls, though my understanding is that Augustine and Luther were far from confining themselves narrowly to the City of God.

    The reality is that the liberals/barbarians have taken over the cultural heights; their fondest wish is for religious folk to keep their religion private. Meanwhile decadence abounds and has a ferocious influence on everyone in our society including religious people.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Okay, Bror, I’ll read Secular Society.

    I agree with you that the fundamental issue lies with saving souls, though my understanding is that Augustine and Luther were far from confining themselves narrowly to the City of God.

    The reality is that the liberals/barbarians have taken over the cultural heights; their fondest wish is for religious folk to keep their religion private. Meanwhile decadence abounds and has a ferocious influence on everyone in our society including religious people.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    There are two ditches equally perilous on both sides of the narrow path which is Christ, the way the truth and the life. Yes Christians can be tempted to decadence. However, take a walk through Pompeii to see the level of decadence within which the early Christian church grew and flourished!
    The other side of the path, and I think this is the most shameful sin of the church today, is to lose sight all together of the gospel and fall into legalism. For some reason people, and most shamefully, Christians confuse Christianity with moralism. It is bad enough when this happens in the church. It is down right horrid that we allow it to spill out of our sanctuaries, and terrorize the world with this moralism. The government has accomplished all it can hope to when it maintains a modicum of peace among the people, punishes wrongdoers, and rewards good citizens. It is not the job of the government to make everyone conform to Christian principles. And the Church should not want Christianity to be confused with this either.
    If saving souls is the main thing, then we must be very careful that the gospel we have been entrusted with is not confused with law. Engaging the world with the gospel, is different than trying to pass anti sodomy laws, or making it difficult for a citizen to get a drink, or taxing them for their cigarettes. Yet, today that is the perception of the church, a bunch of “do-gooders” who really aren’t doing anything “good” at all, but are worried their neighbor might have some fun. Seriously, the world associates us with nothing but law anymore, and that is a huge shame. The only time we are in the public eye it seems is when we are trying to ostracize another segment of society with yet another law, all in the name of Christ!
    We have to learn to do better. of course me sitting here arguing with you probably isn’t doing better.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    There are two ditches equally perilous on both sides of the narrow path which is Christ, the way the truth and the life. Yes Christians can be tempted to decadence. However, take a walk through Pompeii to see the level of decadence within which the early Christian church grew and flourished!
    The other side of the path, and I think this is the most shameful sin of the church today, is to lose sight all together of the gospel and fall into legalism. For some reason people, and most shamefully, Christians confuse Christianity with moralism. It is bad enough when this happens in the church. It is down right horrid that we allow it to spill out of our sanctuaries, and terrorize the world with this moralism. The government has accomplished all it can hope to when it maintains a modicum of peace among the people, punishes wrongdoers, and rewards good citizens. It is not the job of the government to make everyone conform to Christian principles. And the Church should not want Christianity to be confused with this either.
    If saving souls is the main thing, then we must be very careful that the gospel we have been entrusted with is not confused with law. Engaging the world with the gospel, is different than trying to pass anti sodomy laws, or making it difficult for a citizen to get a drink, or taxing them for their cigarettes. Yet, today that is the perception of the church, a bunch of “do-gooders” who really aren’t doing anything “good” at all, but are worried their neighbor might have some fun. Seriously, the world associates us with nothing but law anymore, and that is a huge shame. The only time we are in the public eye it seems is when we are trying to ostracize another segment of society with yet another law, all in the name of Christ!
    We have to learn to do better. of course me sitting here arguing with you probably isn’t doing better.


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