CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

No More Cop Outs: We Must Take a Stand

May 10, 2012

When the US hiccups, the rest of the world knows about it. And when the leader of the free world makes a decision – for good or ill – it will echo throughout the rest of the world. This may not always be a healthy thing, but it is a reality. Thus when the US President does the unthinkable, and declares that he will side with those who seek to destroy marriage and family, then this is earth-shattering stuff indeed.

Within hours of this announcement the lame-stream media here in Australia was asking: now that Obama has gone down this path, when will Julia? Of course they were not actually asking – it was more of a demand, really. The secular left media has long ago abandoned any pretence of partiality on these issues.

They have jumped into bed with the homosexual activists, and any excuse will do to push their cause, including homosexual marriage. So already all the MSM is going loopy over when Julia will get on board with the “progressives”.

Of course we expect the secularist elites running the zoo to stumble over themselves in supporting the various radical agendas. What is not expected is when so many folks who claim to be followers of Christ have totally capitulated in these areas.

And they can capitulate in one of two ways. Worst of all, they can defect to the other side. These apostates have simply sold their souls to the devil, and have declared themselves to be at one with the homosexual militants, and their plans to destroy marriage.

But the other form of capitulation – which is far more common – is to simply opt out. We get the same old lousy response from these guys as they try to claim the high spiritual ground:
“Oh, politics is of the devil.”
“We should only be evangelising.”
“God does not call us to change our world.”
“The ship is going down, so don’t waste time rearranging the deck chairs.”
“Our calling is spiritual, not political.”
“You can’t change things just by changing laws.”

Sadly, I get these sorts of unbiblical and irrational objections from other believers all the time. Many actually believe that what I am doing is a complete waste of time. They think that any efforts to minister in social, political and legislative arenas are just not something Christians should be involved in.

I of course have dealt with these critics elsewhere, so for those still not quite clear as to why this sort of thinking is so wrong, I refer you to these articles for starters:
billmuehlenberg.com/1997/10/10/the-case-for-christian-social-involvement/
billmuehlenberg.com/2006/12/02/is-it-time-for-believers-to-pull-out-of-politics/
billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/06/christian-political-involvement/

The simple truth is, Christians are citizens of two kingdoms: an earthly and a heavenly; and we have responsibilities in both. In this world we clearly have a job to do – it is called being salt and light. Our faith is not just a ticket to heaven – a bit of fire insurance.

As N.T. Wright put it, “The work of ‘salvation’ in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely ‘souls’; (2) about the present, not merely the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”

Our salvation is meant to impact not only ourselves, but the world around us. As the late Charles Colson once wrote: “The church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.”

And when such monumentally important things like the abortion holocaust or the war against marriage is taking place all around us, how dare we pretend we can just hide our heads in the sand and hope it all goes away? How dare we say the church has no role in this or that it should have no voice in this?

That is just what so many messed-up believers told Wilberforce: stop wasting your time on all this abolition business, and stick to the gospel. Indeed, as the pro-slavery Lord Melbourne complained: “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.”

Or as Adolf Hitler told the Lutheran Nazi-resister Martin Niemoller: “I will protect the German people. You take care of the church. You pastors should worry about getting people to heaven, and leave this world to me.”

Sadly things are little better today, with far too many Christians taking both Lord Melbourne’s and Hitler’s advice. But let me close with an important article Eric Metaxas wrote several years ago. He warned that believers cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and be oblivious to, and uninvolved in, all that is occurring around them.

He asks what Bonhoeffer would do today: “While Bonhoeffer was trying to wake up the German Church to stand boldly and decisively against the Nazis, another Christian was taking a different tack. Frank Buchman was a prominent American evangelical who headed up something called the Oxford Movement. He hoped to convert Hitler and the other top Nazis to the Christian faith, believing that this would solve everything.

“Bonhoeffer knew that Buchman’s goal was laudable in principle, but in reality it was a fool’s errand. Buchman failed to discern the times in which he was living. While he was trying to arrange lunches to talk with Himmler about Jesus, the very liberties that made it possible to preach the Gospel in Germany were brutally being kicked down the stairs and out the door.

“But Buchman’s idea is alive and well in America today. One often hears Christians say that they don’t want to get involved in political or cultural battles; they just want to ‘preach the Gospel.’ They think that by avoiding political and cultural battles they will retain the credibility necessary to be effective in preaching the Gospel.

“But according to Bonhoeffer, this is tragically mistaken. If your ability to speak the truth is itself under attack — if you cannot say that certain sexual behavior is wrong, or that taking unborn life is wrong — your ability to be a Christian is itself under attack. The Gospel you will be preaching has been fatally compromised.”

And that is exactly what we find happening all around the Western world. Freedom is under attack big time: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience. Yet many Christians say, “But it does not matter, as long as we can preach the gospel”.

But that freedom to preach the gospel is one of the main things which is under threat right now. Freedom is all of a piece. When we stand by and allow one freedom to be taken from us, soon all freedoms will be gone – and we will have only ourselves to blame.

Niemoller fortunately did not heed Hitler’s advice. Nor did Bonhoeffer – and he paid for that with his very life. I close with the very familiar words of Niemoller. We need to keep hearing them until they sink in, we awaken from our slumber, and we spring into action:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

www.breakpoint.org/the-center/columns/call-response/15129-metaxas-what-would-bonhoeffer-do

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19 Responses to No More Cop Outs: We Must Take a Stand

  • It also violates the lesson of the parable of the talents. When we focus on *just* preaching and the gospel we are not using the talents God gave us for his purposes.

    Additionally, as Aristotle put it, we are, by nature, social creates, or political animals. It is in our nature to participate in civil society and so it follows that God wants to use this side of our nature for his purpose.

    Damien Spillane

  • Yes quite right Damien

    Or as Norman Geisler put it much more recently:

    “What sometimes escapes Christians is the fact that the responsibility to love other persons extends to the whole person. That is, man is more than a soul destined for another world; he is also a body living in this world. And as a resident of this time-space continuum man has physical and social needs which cannot be isolated from spiritual needs. Hence, in order to love man as he is – the whole man – one must exercise a concern about his social needs as well as his spiritual needs.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Imagine if William Wilberforce took that advice on when he was doing his best to free slaves from slavery. It took him great courage to do what he did and unfortunately now Christians lack the courage to make a stand for what is right.
    Ian Nairn

  • Yes exactly right Ian

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • To use the sinking ship analogy, yes it is sinking, we as Christians have a responsibility to get as many into the lifeboats (Christ) as possible. Yes there are those who like some on the sinking ship refuse to believe it can ever sink, thinking of the “unsinkable titanic” here.

    Anyhow, Jesus himself told us we few would be saved, this just means we have to work harder and as wisely as possible. Every one we save, is one that will not get taken down with the ship. One at a time, is all we can do, but if like yourself Bill, using blogs can reach more than one at a time, more the better.

    Jesus instructed us, follow and keep my commandments, preach the gospel, endure to the end, rinse, repeat until he comes again.

    Neil Waldron

  • Thanks Bill for this timely reminder. Our personal salvation is only part of what God has planned for us. When people say we should stand aloof from the fight and concentrate on just preaching the Gospel, we are entitled to ask two questions.
    1. Are they actually doing it, or just trying to impress?
    2. If so, what is the content of the Gospel they preach? Does it involve proclaiming the whole counsel of God or a sanitized, cut down version of the Word?
    Graham Sharman

  • Fully agree with you Bill. For many Christians, when they hear and/or use the word ‘gospel’ think immediately, and often only, of Christ dying on the cross too take away my sin and rising again that I might have eternal life. True, but this is a truncated and unbiblical perspective. They forget that, as recorded in Mark 1:14, when Jesus appeared in Galilee at the beginning of His ministry, He was ‘preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.’ To sit back and let things slide into oblivion is really to believe in a gospel of the kingdom on me.
    Steve Swartz

  • The question I have for those who want to “just preach the gospel” is; If you do not train yourself now in growing courage in your character by standing up for right in a reasonably benign environment, where will you find the courage to face those who will attempt to force you to deny Christ by force? As faith is the spiritual muscle, so I believe courage is the muscle of the character, the soul and it needs to be exercised in order to gain the strength needed when the battle heats up. There is of course God’s grace which always goes beyond our short comings and praise Him for that!
    The other thing they don’t seem to understand is what you pointed out, Bill, that the very involvement of Christians in politics, the creation of godly laws even in a nation of largely agnostic people will raise the ceiling under which the gospel can be freely preached. How are these people preaching the gospel when they cut off the second half of the Great Commission?
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10]. To turn a blind eye to sin in this world… to keep silent in evil times is inconsistent with the prophetic nature of the testimony of Jesus – the proclamation of His Good News in this world. Where are the Jeremiahs, the Amoses, the Isaiahs, the Ezekiels, the Elijahs, the John the Baptists of our time?
    John Wigg

  • One comment on last nights news was, the majority of Australian support same sex marriage, so it is about time our leader makes up her mind.
    How on earth do these lies get a foot hold?
    Bill Heggers Perth

  • Frank Buchman formed the “Oxford Group” (aka “Moral Re-Armament”), not the “Oxford Movement”, which was a 19th C. high-church revival movement in the Anglican Church. Either Metaxas has made an error or you’ve slipped in the wrong word while typing, Bill.
    Pr Mark Henderson

  • Neil that is an interesting analogy.

    The Titanic was described by some as the ship that even God couldn’t sink, and sink it did.

    God is going to shake all things, he is going to sink the Titanics of this world that people put their trust in.

    Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. If we don’t want to live in a world where sin is promoted as good then we need to do something about it.

    Many of the prophets prophesied again and again only for their messages to be rejected. Yet they were commended for doing God’s will. They strove to change society for the better. Standing up for what is right is the right thing to do whether or not we are able to reform society.

    Matt Vinay

  • Thank you for the article Bill.

    Do you consider it significant that that there is little evidence of political involvement by early church Christians? Sure, Paul’s wonderful speech begore King Agrippa is evidence of Christian contact with the political and legal authorities of the day, but where are the exhortations for Christians to become actively involved in politics or oppose policital agendas where they conflict with Christian beliefs? Clearly the persecution of the early church is relevant here, but I think the question is still valid. More generally, history does suggest that when the church obtains political and legal influence, the consequences are not always good, in fact sometimes the consequences are the opposite: I refer as one example – the Genevan Calvinists torturing Miguel Servetus to death on theological grounds.

    Of course, I too am most concerned with what I see happening in the ‘Christian’ West, but I am coming to the view that these left wing secularists are stone deaf to reason – debating with them legitimises their foolishness. Why throw pearls to pigs?

    Nick Davies

  • Thanks Nick

    There are two quick ways to seek to answer your questions. If you read the articles I link to above, they will partially answer you. Also, the following article deals with a more particular issue (the lack of military involvement in the early church) but it basically responds to the more generic issue of political involvement as well: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/23/were-the-early-christians-pacifists/

    Has some Christian political involvement been unhelpful or less than ideal over the past 2000 years? Yes, but why throw out the baby with the bathwater? All sorts of features of Christianity have been abused, misused and perverted. So do we dump Christianity altogether because of some past bad representations of it?

    There has also been a tremendous amount of good and helpful political involvement – of which Wilberforce would be just one prime example. And we have plenty of biblical examples as well, whether it is Joseph, or Daniel, or others.

    As to your final query, of course we are not really trying to reach the 5% of hardcore “left wing secularists”. Nor will they persuade our 5% of conservative Christians who have firmly made up their minds. It is the 80 – 90% in the middle that is basically undecided and ambiguous on these issues. Those are the ones i am trying to reach (and they are the ones the radicals on the left are trying to reach). If we don’t try to reach them, then the other side wins them by default. That is one good reason why we must be in this fight.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Now that’s a quotable quote;
    “we are not really trying to reach the 5% of hardcore “left wing secularists”. Nor will they persuade our 5% of conservative Christians who have firmly made up their minds. It is the 80 – 90% in the middle that is basically undecided and ambiguous on these issues. Those are the ones i am trying to reach (and they are the ones the radicals on the left are trying to reach). If we don’t try to reach them, then the other side wins them by default. That is one good reason why we must be in this fight.”
    Yes yes yes yes and yes.
    I wonder if that could be shortened and made part of your blog header. It sure cuts through a lot of half-baked objections.
    Tim Lovett

  • Dear Bill, No progeny follows unisex affinity.
    HIV AIDS + ve is a calculated risk. There is no bilateral orgasm as in husband-wife union.
    Anatomically, we were not designed for such activity. Such robs our God of His blessing in the ‘one flesh’ heaven-prescribed union.
    Harrold Steward, MB BS

  • Nick, if I may just add 1 more thought to the question of Christian involvement in politics.
    Of course, nothing and I repeat, nothing replaces the need for individual souls to bow the knee in personal recognition to the Lordship of Christ their saviour and Lord. But I believe by being involved in politics, we are not only adding to the expression of common grace, but also assisting the cause of special grace, salvation of the individual soul. In the garden of Eden there was probably no need for dentists, as teeth would not have been subject to decay. Likewise since all human souls would have been directly subject to the Lordship of God, there would have been no need for government, had humans remained in their sinless state. However, now, in a broken world we need dentists to keep our oral health at the best possible status, though none would ever claim that keeping your teeth healthy means that we won’t die any more. Likewise to those who are called by God to exercise His command to do good in the political arena, they must do it unto the Lord with all their might. Unless you can prove from the scriptures that man’s social interactions need no boundaries, no governing? I expect that Romans 13 would answer that and there Paul even lays out the proper role for government, limited to its role under God’s Lordship.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Check out this article from todays SMH, and the quote I have listed from it..

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/out-and-proud-as-obama-settles-marriage-issue-20120511-1yi0b.html

    ‘…It was one of those passionate sermons common enough in parts of America, but quite alien to most Australians, used to our own clergy’s safe drone’.

    What an indictment on our clergy!
    Definitely time to stop copping out in these culture wars.

    Thanks again Bill.
    Annette Williams

  • Thanks for that Annette

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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