Engaging vs. accommodating the culture

Engaging vs. accommodating the culture November 21, 2014

My longtime friend, the Rev. Harold Senkbeil, has an article in the latest Concordia Journal entitled “Engaging the Culture Faithfully.”  It is a scathing critique of how the Church as a whole has been accommodating the culture instead of truly engaging it.  At the same time, it offers a genuinely pastoral response.

The article isn’t online, but Pastor Matthew Dent has posted some piercing quotations at Steadfast Lutherans, which you can see after the jump.

From Rev. Harold Senkbeil, “Engaging the Culture Faithfully, Concordia Journal (Fall 2014), quoted by  Pastor Matthew Dent, Steadfast Lutherans » Senkbeil in CSL Quarterly: Cultural Accomodation is What Ails Confessional Lutheran Church:

Death and Resurrection: Disentanglement from the Culture

“…it seems that much of what is ailing us [the confessional Lutheran church] can be traced to cultural accommodation.”

“…we are going to have to first step away from our culture if we are to truly embrace it and connect it to Christ and his word.”

“The marriage between the culture and the church was ill advised in the first place and is no longer tenable.”

“The Word of God, not the world, determines the mission. The missionary task of the church is to bring an eternal biblical gospel to bear, tailored for the challenges unique to each generation.”

What Goes Around Comes Around – “Despite the broad theological divide between liberals and conservatives, they have a remarkable affinity. While classic liberalism capitulated to the intelligentsia of its day . . . conservative evangelicalism has adjusted its compass to the trends of pop culture…”

The New Babylonian Captivity of the Church – “What I describe as the new Babylonian captivity is what we have done to ourselves, namely, the strange fascination with our contemporary culture evident across denominational and confessional lines.”

From Eternal Verities to Personal Fulfillment – “There has been a shift within the church, almost a conscious decision, to turn away from the eternal truths of the word of God and focus on human fulfillment. It is tragic, it is inexplicable, and it is suicidal.”

From Chastity to Decadence -“The sexual disaster unfolding in our society and increasingly among those who bear the name of Christ is but another symptom of what has happened as the church has capitulated to expressive individualism and built its corporate life around the gratification of the individual. We have sown to the wind and reaped the whirlwind.”

From Soul to Self -“How catastrophic is it when the church herself becomes secularized and expressive individualism sits in the driver’s seat in the church’s life and mission. When the church has lost connection with Christ her living head, she loses her soul.”

Diagnosis: Acedia

“The prevailing boredom with holy things that we see in the contemporary church is the telltale sign of acedia. . . . our duty is to keep God’s sacred things holy among us. God’s word must not only be taught faithfully in all its truth and purity, but those who receive that word are to live holy lives in conformity to it.”

“The frenzy with which much of the church busies herself with things peripheral to the kingdom in a frantic attempt by her own ingenuity and effort to make God’s name holy or make his kingdom come is a sign that something is radically wrong. The church has lost connection with Christ, her living head; she has listened to the siren calls of this world; she has succumbed to the prevailing culture instead of what Christ Jesus created her to be.”

Treatment: Recovering the Corporate Life – “It is time to revive and recover the third article of the Creed; to live corporately and communally in a world of expressive individualism. . . . We need to show how the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies people one by one through the gospel, and then draws them into communion in his holy church.”

Prescription: Treatment Plan for Evangelization

“For too long we have seen the ministry of the church and the mission of the church as distinct compartments, outreach and inreach, making disciples and keeping disciples. Yet the life of the church revolves around the central article: the justification of the ungodly by grace through faith in the Son of God, who is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Like the hub of a wheel, the church’s corporate life is an extension of the good news that God was in Christ reconciling the whole world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”

Proclamation and Ministry – “Listen carefully to much of preaching today . . . there may be a lot of references to the love of God, but precious little of the entire forgiveness of sins in the shed blood of Jesus Christ his Son, crucified and ascended, yet present in his word and sacraments for our forgiveness, life and salvation.”

Catechesis for Faith and Life – “We have the tools to [step forward and engage]. . . they are the Scriptures, Creeds and Confessions of the church by which is taught the faith once delivered to the saints. To evangelize the world and catehize the faithful, we need to be a teaching church once more.”

Prayer and Meditation – “In our busy world, we could use a bit more peace and quiet. How much better if it were to regularly be still and listen carefully to hear God speak in his word . . . In such prayer, formed and framed by the Spirit of God by his word, there is peace in the midst of turmoil . . .”

Conclusion: When Worlds Collide – Learning from Augustine

“Simply put, here amid the kingdoms of this world we have no continuing city. That’s why we dare not become attached to the passing values of any human culture.”

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