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

Prophetic Voices: Needed But Unheeded

Dec 1, 2013

One of the great things about God is he does not remain silent, and he does not leave us without a witness about himself. Our God is a self-revealing God; a God who, as the writer to the Hebrews says, has spoken to us through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Heb 1:1).

But as tremendous as it is that God speaks and sends his spokesmen, it is also so very terrible that they are universally rejected. Yahweh’s prophets of old were constantly being scorned, rebuffed and rejected. Indeed, they were often even warned ahead of time that the people would not receive them.

Jesus of course experienced all this as well, and spoke about it many times, eg: “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all” (Luke 11:47-51).

The disciples also spoke to this truth, as for example Stephen: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it” (Acts 7:51-53).

But God in his grace continues to send his spokesmen, and still seeks to speak to both his people and the world today. He still raises up prophetic voices to share his heart and stir up his people. But as before, these words of rebuke, warning, encouragement and reproof are usually unheeded – at least by most people.

But a remnant usually does stand up and take notice. One such prophetic voice was used mightily by God last century and his voice still speaks today. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was such an important mouthpiece for God, and his latter work especially was very prophetic in nature, urging God’s people to wake up to the many battles all around them: theological, spiritual, cultural, ethical, political, epistemological, philosophical, and social.

He sought valiantly to wake up a sleeping church, and he did all he could to sound the alarm about the wars waging in its midst. But as is the case so often, most people did not listen. Most people did not awaken. Most kept right on snoozing through their own collapse.

Image of A Christian Manifesto
A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer Amazon logo

But a remnant did heed his words then, and a remnant still values greatly his words today. I of course have shared so many of his words over the years, and will continue to do so. Here I wish to share a short talk he gave thirty years ago. It is even truer now than when presented back then. So here is “The Price We Pay for Negligence” by Francis Schaeffer:

As I state in A Christian Manifesto, America was greatly influenced by Reformation ideals. This is not to say that all the founders were Christian. Nor that the Christians were totally consistent in their political theories. However there was a Christian underpinning which distinguished America’s birth from the French and Russian Revolutions. Even the non-Christians recognised a Creator who gave the “Inalienable rights” in contrast to man or the state being the giver of those rights.

Today, however, we are a nation “under man” – centred around man’s self-appointed autonomy, governed by man’s fluctuating opinions and chiefly existing, it seems, to give man personal peace and affluence. In other words, the Judeo-Christian ethos, based on God’s absolutes, has been supplanted by a secularistic, humanistic, arrogantly arbitrary philosophy.

This worldview is spreading rapidly, and our legal system is a prominent perpetrator of it. Law in this country has become situational law, controlled by a small but dangerously powerful elite. The courts are dangerous because they pontificate arbitrarily what they personally consider to be “good” for society, yet they demand – and aggressively enforce – absolute allegiance to their arbitrary decrees.

But what did we expect? The humanistic, secularistic thinkers have merely carried their philosophy to its logical end. They have remained true to their worldview in both words and actions while, unfortunately, Christians have equivocated. They simply have not taken the Lordship of Christ seriously.

Instead, Christians have largely shut up their spirituality into a small corner of life Sunday church or their Bible studies instead of realising that the Lordship of Christ is to permeate the whole spectrum of life. They have coasted along complacently, often serving up such dogmas as “you can’t mix religion and politics,” or “you can’t legislate morality,” or “we just need to pray and witness to people” – when what they really meant was “we just don’t want to be disturbed.” They were content in their “comfort zone.”

But Christians are paying for their negligence. We have permitted the dominance of a philosophy that sanctions the killing of an unborn child for the mother’s convenience. A philosophy that deems it acceptable for parents to allow a “less than perfect” newborn child to die – again, because it is convenient. A philosophy that can talk of euthanasia of the aged and a general devaluation of all human life. A philosophy that has euphemized a wrong and self-destructive sexuality into “alternative lifestyles.” A philosophy that drives its proponents to unashamedly seek the banishment of all religious influence from the stream of public life, leaving a totally relativistic value system and law.

This secularistic worldview has engulfed every area of society which Christians have chosen to ignore – the government, the courts, education, the media. And it is now threatening the areas which Christians naively took for granted as being beyond its reach: the family, the Christian school and the church. More and more the state is opening the door to restrict the free exercise of our faith through increased regulation.

And if the majority of Christians persist in their complacency, we will increasingly lose our freedoms. Christians largely sleep on, as step after step is taken. It is not too late to change this destructive situation, but it is too late for mere words. It is time for Christians to fight this materialistic, humanistic tide and provide Christian alternatives. It is time that we came out of our cloistered, compartmentalized existence and took our place in the political and legal arenas.

We must continue to pray and witness to people of salvation in Christ. But we must also fight for the sanctity of human life, fight for the protection of the family, fight for the proper education of our children, fight for our right to speak and worship freely, and fight for a church that is bound to the tenets of God and not the state as though it were an autonomous authority.

We must protest. We must resist. Yet we must not move with zeal without also moving in wisdom and scriptural authority. We must understand how God’s Word applies to the whole spectrum of society, and we must know how to use our constitutional channels to work toward change.

We must use the law effectively in the coming years if we are to see any positive change. Our system of law has veered so far from its original mooring that it is going to take aggressive challenges in the courts to thwart the destructive trends. We cannot afford to sit back and allow humanism to increasingly roll over us.

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8 Responses to Prophetic Voices: Needed But Unheeded

  • So many are blinded to our Lords truth, in Gods Word.
    Judith Bond

  • Thanks for a needed and heeded article Bill! It helps to consolidate where we stand in the face of all the different demands on our loyalties in the emerging hostile environment of secular humanism. We could all use more of these words of reminder and encouragement along the way!

    Rachel Smith

  • At long last organisations are emerging, both in the USA and in Europe, which intend to take on the champions of ‘muscular secularity.’ Let us hope and pray they are not too late to prevent us being overwhelmed by a new dark age of pagan barbarism.

    Alan Williams, UK

  • I wonder how much of that blindness is a blindness of convenience behind which we hide our real struggle, that of not wanting to give up our comforts, our live even like Jesus demands of us. I face that struggle every day. And yes, it is truly God’s amaising grace to give us not only His word in writtten form, which we can easily ignore, but give us people like you, Bill, who will speak if we want to hear it or not. It is part of that tough love the Lord is so famous for.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • I wonder also how much we are aware of the fact that once a battle is won we must actively work to maintain and defend the ground thus won, and not just say “well, the victory is won, we can all go home now”. No, this earth, humanity will be a battle ground until the Lord returns, we must remain watchful for new attacks of the enemy, which sometimes come in new places, but more often where we thought the battle had been won.
    And more than that, we must teach our children about the battle and prepare them for their part in it, for they must e ready to take their place when we are gone.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Bill for once again standing and declaring the truth and shocking modern day falsehood for what they truly are.
    I am constantly amazed at what we have allowed in our culture and in the times of our very own generation! If we asked many Christians, say 20 or even 15 years ago would they have tolerate homosexuality, euthanasia or Islamic tolerance, they would have said a clear no, or at least have grave doubts about them. Now I find many Christian friends and acquaintances never even seem to be stirred or worried about this. Even worse, they make no comment or commitment when I voice deep concerns about such abhorrent behaviour. Lord, save us and Lord help us to be courageous in standing for you and for your Kingdom!!

    James Ziersch

  • When reading this article I was reminded of the old hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers”, which I sang in my early days in church. Verse 4 reads,
    “Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wain, but the church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail, we have Christ’s own promise and that cannot fail.”
    I understand that this hymn was withdrawn from use by that church for being too militaristic. However we live in a war zone and the battles continue. Men like Francis Schaeffer and many others have fought in this battle and have with great clarity outlined the issues we face as a church and a society. There is a continuing desperate need for all Christians to engage in this battle for our Judeo-Christian heritage and contribute in a way meaningful to each.

    Brad Salisbury

  • I heartily agree with all stated here. I am, however, grieved that it may take the loss of our freedoms as Christian Families, Marriages, Schools and Churches to not only wake us up, but to bring us to unity and agreement that we are the prophetic voice this world so desperately needs. How long will we argue and bicker over our opinions before we take our stand together, as salt and light to our culture?

    Paul Botha

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