Thursday, July 14, 2011

Modern Marriage and the Antithesis

Most Americans profess to be Christians (76% in 2008). So where is all this support coming from for same-sex marriage? While we're at it, where does the support come from for Family Guy, South Park, many other television shows and movies, advertising, no-fault divorce laws, internet pornography, aggressively secular public schools, and so on?

The answer is that many of those professing Christians are merely nominal in their affiliation (Protestant and Catholic), and they are fairly indistinguishable from their godless neighbors in how they think and live. But even most of the church-attending, religiously serious Christians are culturally compromised. Of course, we are all compromised to some extent or another. Deepening our adoption of the culture of Christ is called the process of sanctification, and it is lifelong. But too many Christians in America are scandalously and unconsciously conformed to the ways of the world that considers itself wise apart from and contrary to the wisdom of God.

The legalization of (or legislative invention of) same-sex marriage in New York State prompted me to call for the church to take it's counter-cultural calling more seriously, i.e., to understand and apply what Reformed theologians call "the antithesis" more widely, more conscientiously, and more rigorously ("A Call to Christian Counter-culture,", July 6, 2011).

The legal establishment of same-sex marriage in New York state—not by a rogue court, mind you, but by legislative act—raises pressing questions for the Church. Will we stand for Christian principles in the face of this blindly egalitarian normalization of homosexuality, and the polygamy and incest that will logically follow? Will we stand firm when people call us bigots and compare us with unreconstructed racists? Will we continue to follow uncritically the principles of the world around us? Evangelicals have a history of cultural accommodation, after all. Will we join with our clearly anti-Christian society in this moral collapse, or will we present an alternative by clearly identifying, thoroughly rejecting, and firmly replacing those socially self-destructive principles? ...

If the Church continues to address individual issues as isolated challenges—abortion, divorce, teen rebellion, same-sex marriage—she will continue to plug holes in the dike while the rising waters come up through the ground to her knees, to her elbows, and then to her neck. The problem is not this-and-that hole where the water is leaking in, but where you are standing relative to the sea. Christians need a more thorough understanding of the culture and seek the high ground in the mind of Christ.

In the age of same-sex marriage, how radical a Reformation do we need if the Church is to remain distinct from the world? Remaining distinct is not about hemlines, how much you drink, nose studs, what entertains you, etc., though being distinct has consequences for these things. It means being transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). It means understanding the world in distinctly Christian categories of thought.

I then point readers to Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism (1898) where he distinguishes between the Christian worldview and the modern one. Part of the modern has grown out of the Christian, but fundamental aspects merely mimic the Christian view but are fundamentally opposed to it. That is, they are idolatrous and corrosive of the Christian way of thinking.
We need a renewed understanding of the spiritual warfare involved in all of life, not just personal but corporate between the church and the world. We need a renewed appreciation of the distinction between what Augustine called the city of God and the city of man, an awareness of the antithesis at work in all of life, the kingdoms that are in conflict in every thought, word, and deed, and throughout the culture. We are what Stanley Hauerwas called "resident aliens."

Christians are at war. Christ is our king and champion. He is spreading his kingdom, reclaiming his world, and putting every enemy under his feet. We are glad captives and combatants in that war. The dramatic slide of our culture into moral vertigo is an opportunity for us ready our minds for battle and live faithfully and redemptively in this clash of cultures.

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