Friday, 13 May 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Surrender the Good Surrender?

Douglas Wilson

Carl Trueman says a lot of good things here, and I invite you all to reflect on them. Having done so, I want to take this occasion to argue with his selection of one word, about which more in a minute.Surrender

Trueman sees right through the posing of those Christians whose idea of “engaging culture” is really just an excuse for aping pop culture, driven by a deep-seated need to show clips from top movies during the sermon. But fondling the Egyptians’ gold and leering at the Egyptian girls is not the same thing as plundering the Egyptians. Quite a different mindset is involved.

So the word Trueman uses that I want to take issue with is anti-culture.
If it really were an anti-culture we were up against, this would mean not only that they had abandoned all traditional cultural “standards,” but also that they had abandoned all enforcement of them. But this is not the case at all. The ruling elites have an identifiable standard, and they promulgate it fiercely. It is unified, and it is clear. That standard seems absurd to Christians, but this is because it is alien, not because it is non-existent.

The unbelieving culture around us shares the characteristics of all unbelieving cultures. And it is a force to be reckoned with. To pretend that we are up against “no culture” would put us in the position of a hapless evangelical football team, playing against an anti-football team. This is so unfair, we complain pitifully — they walked off the field ten minutes ago, and we still can’t score! That is not where we are. The other team is very much on the field.

So what we are really up against is a despotic culture, an evil culture, a tyrannical culture, a humanistic culture. They have a different god, they have a different law, they have a different police force, and so the Christian response must be to insist that all of their idols have to be overthrown. That is what true Christian cultural engagement is. That is the only thing that Christian cultural engagement can ever possibly be.

Disciple the nations, Jesus said. He didn’t say to exegete BeyoncĂ© songs in our sermons. But neither did He call upon the church to pull a “brave, brave, Sir Robin” move. He didn’t say copy the nations, and He didn’t say run from the nations. He said disciple the nations. Not only so, He didn’t say that we could limit discipling the nations to those seasons when it was easy, during those times when the nations wanted to let us.

He didn’t tell us to request authorized ghettos either. Trueman wonders briefly about the “Benedict option,” as though the kind of culture we see taking shape around us would even remotely allow Benedict option communities. Tell me another one. A Christian civilization would allow it, but then again if we had a Christian civilization, we wouldn’t need it.

As the grim realities of past compromises (urged upon us by our feckless Christian leaders) start to manifest themselves more and more clearly, look for many of these same Christian leaders to attempt to “surrender the good surrender.” But that is hardly what we were told to do.

There is a biblical way to lay down your sword and shield, but the only place we are allowed to do it is down by the riverside. When God finally calls us across Jordan, we need not make that journey armed. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). But until that day, our central task is to win the world for Jesus Christ. I am interested to know if Carl agrees with that. Is that our assigned mission? If it is, then we should get on with it.

All of current cultural dilemmas flow from the fact that we have flinched and compromised at that point. If any human culture is allowed its head for long enough, then it will of necessity become the kind of thing we see happening now. Satan fell, Chesterton said, by the force of gravity.

Cultures apart from Christ cannot avoid decadence. Cultures apart from Christ cannot avoid the abyss. Cultures apart from Christ cannot stand. Cultures apart from Christ cannot contain or hide their hatred of the Father. Cultures apart from Christ must eventually call down the chaos. And here we are.

Christ is the only Savior. Christ really is Lord of heaven and earth. But our immediate task is not to get the world to confess that. Our first and most pressing task is to get over twenty percent of evangelical and Reformed leadership to confess it. Then we would really be getting somewhere.

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