CultureWatch

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

On National Reprieves

Jul 29, 2018

Just as individuals might get a second chance at life, so too nations. Sometimes a nation may seem to be on the edge of a precipice, just about to head over, but a reprieve of sorts will come along. To change metaphors, a lifeline will be thrown out – at least temporarily.

The thoughts offered here have as their basis a get-together I was involved in last night with a group of Christians and conservatives. The state of the world was being discussed – as often happens in such gatherings – and several times I was asked for my thoughts on the state of America with its newish president.

I offered a few brief thoughts, and decided it would be worthwhile putting them into article form, with a bit more meat on the bones. Thus this piece. It should be noted that I write this as a Christian and as someone interested in the big picture.

As I mentioned last night, sadly not all Christians look at the big picture. Often they have the very short term in view, or run with a rather limited perspective of things. But I said that we must keep the bigger picture in mind. And by that I of course mean the bigger God picture.

Politics is important, but it is not everything. I reminded my listeners that at the end of the day politics cannot save. That is something God alone can do. If we put our full and ultimate trust in God as we seek to work for godly political and social outcomes, that is one thing.

But unfortunately too many believers sort of forget about the bigger picture, and tend to think that if we get the right guy in the White House, or get a few more good justices on the Supreme Court, we can almost bring in the millennium.

While paying lip service to God and spiritual realities, they can often put most of their energy and hopes in changing things politically. Now make no mistake: I certainly do seek political and social renewal, and delight to see it happening. I have been involved in the culture wars in Australia for three decades now.

So I am not minimising for a moment the need for godly governance, for righteousness exalting a nation, and for how vital decent policies (eg., pro-family, pro-life policies, etc.) are. I have been fighting for such things for many years now. But I am also under no illusion as to how far all that can take us.

Yes, it is good if we can get terrible laws overturned, such as those that result in the deaths of countless unborn babies. Yes, I have fought tooth and nail to defend marriage and family, and I will continue to do that. Yes, I will not stop resisting things like creeping sharia, or the ugly agenda of the radical secular left.

But I realise that these things alone will not save the West, just as getting Trump in the top job will not ultimately save America. Now, am I glad he is in instead of Clinton? Absolutely. Am I glad he has been doing some good things for the nation? I sure am. Am I thankful he is helping get the Supreme Court back on track? You bet. Am I glad some much-needed swamp draining is occurring? Yes indeed.

But as I said two years ago and will keep saying, that in itself is not enough. At the end of the day we need more than mere political and legislative changes, as vital as they are. The simple truth is this: politics flows downstream from the culture.

So if we really want to change things politically, we must work on changing the culture. But there is another truth here that we must not overlook: the culture flows downstream from faith. We will not really change the culture without first dealing with a nation’s spiritual condition.

This is what I mean by saying we must always keep the bigger picture in view. This is the same thing I have been saying for years now. And it has gotten me into a lot of trouble with many Christians. When I said two years ago that Trump is NOT the messiah, and he is not the final answer for what ails America, I got plenty of criticism and lost plenty of friends.

But I still feel the same. As I have said, it is great to see some much-needed change taking place in America. It is great to see a real turnaround in various areas. But Trump of course will not always be around, and we know that soon enough Democrats will again occupy the White House. These things come and go, as any cursory awareness of history demonstrates.

So the real issue that must be addressed is ultimately spiritual in nature. Until America’s Christians repent and turn back to God, all I can do is see the Trump years – and other things like it – as a reprieve. It is slowing down the rot. It is a temporary pulling back from the brink.

But politics alone cannot save. Politics is very important, but there are even more important things than that. Because I am again reading through the Old Testament prophets, all this is once again being impressed upon me. Back then we had the same situation: a nation on the brink, in a perilous condition; Band-Aid solutions being offered; and prophetic words of coming divine judgment.

The people did not want to hear what the prophets had to say. They flocked to the false prophets. They told the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. But the real prophets of God said that judgment must come, unless repentance and a massive turn-around took place.

But the people preferred the easy “solutions” as offered by the false prophets. They were the solutions that did not cost them anything, and that were entirely superficial in nature. It is just as Jeremiah bewailed: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14 and 8:11).

Their real sin is like an incurable cancer, but they are dismissing it, claiming it is just a flesh wound. Their superficial remedies will not at all suffice. And Ezekiel had said similar things. In Ez. 13:8-16 we find these incredible words:

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD. Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord GOD.

Wow, what a passage. It is so very pertinent to far too many Western believers today who put their trust in whitewash. The metaphor is so apt: a rotten foundation will not last, and the poorly constructed walls, plastered over to conceal the defects, simply will not stand up against a major storm.

As Iain Duguid comments: “Such false comfort has had catastrophic results. In speaking according to their own hopes rather than the word of the Lord, they have seduced God’s people into a false security that will be devastatingly exposed on the coming day of judgment.”

The application for us today is – or should be – obvious. Too many American and Western Christians are looking to plaster and whitewash as a solution to their woes. But that can never work. The problems are far too deep, and without God’s intervention, far too intractable. Yes, it is good to get rid of some of the bad politicians and bad laws. That we must work toward. But that alone will never suffice.

So how do I look at the things happening in the US and elsewhere at the moment? I see them as welcome changes, but as only a reprieve. The West is still headed for a mighty fall, and these small changes will just temporarily stall the inevitable.

And the problem with a reprieve is it can once again lull people – especially God’s people – back into another sense of security – although a false security. Judgment deferred is still judgment. While we can be grateful for all this, the real work of real repentance remains untried.

Again, I rejoice in some of these changes that the new administration is bringing about, but I know that at the end of the day they can never be enough. God always looks for real solutions to real problems, and he always wants us to go much deeper than our superficial tinkering at the edges, or our whitewashing of the defective walls.

The final line of a brand-new piece by Rod Dreher may be fitting here: “Again: this is not a Catholic crisis, or a Protestant crisis, or an Orthodox crisis. This is a Christian crisis, and a civilizational crisis. Be ready. Time is short.”
www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/declinism-morris-berman-benedict-option/

The only answer to a Christian and civilisational crisis is a divine one. How can it be otherwise? And the passage we most need here has sadly become far too familiar and thus stripped of so much of its power. But it must be repeated nonetheless:

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

[1830 words]

14 Responses to On National Reprieves

  • Well written again Bill,

    I was quite depressed with the Super Saturday results. Bill shorten lied repeatedly about having zero citizenship problems within Labor. History proves that lie with superSaturday costing taxpayers $7.5 million.
    It appears that deception and/ or incompetence is quite acceptable for the Australian voter. The fact is no Politician paid a price, no one who re-stood in the electorates lost out.
    It says much for our society .it is clearly okay to deceive and lie.
    At least Barnaby Joyce and john Alexander had the integrity to stand down straight away. Labor politicians did the opposite and the taxpayers has once again been screwed with another election probably within 10 months.
    Our politicians only serve their own interests. Very few now serve the people and the Nation.

    On a positive note God is in control. Praise God, looking forward to His return and His Kingdom.
    blessings
    Phil

  • Spot on Bill!

    The big picture is that we desperately NEED revival. With revival, politics will follow with righteous laws. Do we WANT revival?

    As you wrote: 2 Chr. 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”.

    But what wicked ways? As you quoted AW Tozer:
    “The church has lost her testimony. She has no longer anything to say to the world. Her once robust shout of assurance has faded away to an apologetic whisper. She who one time went out to declare now goes out to inquire. Her dogmatic declaration has become a respectful suggestion, a word of religious advice, given with the understanding that it is after all only an opinion and not meant to sound bigoted.”

    Spot on! One of the many reasons for this, I believe, is that many Christians, including well-known Apologists, and very many pastors do not believe that Genesis 1-11 is the actual history of the world. This sorely weakens Christian witness. E.g. Magnuson (an agnostic or atheist) agreed with Peter Jensen that the Bible condemned homosexuality, but since Jensen did not believe that God created the world in six days, why should he (Magnusson) believe the rest of the Bible?

    Genesis is foundational to the Gospel. So is it surprising that the decline in the Western church closely follows its acceptance of long ages of evolution and rejection of Genesis 1-11 as real history? In the early 1800s Charles Lyell set out to “rid the science of Moses” (i.e. rid geology of Gen.1-11) and Charles Darwin’s used Lyell’s long ages of time, to introduced evolution. Then, with the acceptance of evolution in science, the great universities (once solidly Christian) and theological schools followed suit and many became bastions of atheism, or of Christianity as an optional extra ‘God of the Gaps’.

    In Street witnessing in Melbourne CBD, non-Christians and ex-Christians often cite science as proving the Bible wrong, or blaming God for evil etc. All that is traceable to a rejection of Genesis 1-11 as history. Hence my handouts now include a tinyurl.com/BibleOrEvolution link that discuses some of the issues.

    So please can we have another update article on Apologetic resources that includes ministries that teach what the Bible plainly says in Ex.20:11: “… in six days God created the heavens and the Earth, the sea, and everything in them …”. In your earlier lists of apologetics resources I did not find any of the key creation ministries: Creation Ministries International; Institute For Creation Research; or, Answers In Genesis, listed in their own right.

  • Spot on Bill. The real problem lies with God’s own people, especially with church leadership. Just as in the days Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders had changed the focus of the real gospel. Today, success in Christian leadership is measured by the world’s standards (numbers, money, personal charisma, pseudo-spirituality, top down leaership, etc). We have a Western church that has no mission and it is solely waiting, in luxury and comfort, to be raptured out of here before the real persecution starts (as it has with our bretheren in other parts of the world). Most church services are totally predictable and a waste of time. Way too many churches have the personal business hobby for the church leaders. As Barna points out, there is no discipleship occurring within our churches. As a result, no one knows what the mission of the church is supposed to be other than trying to get others to attend services so the church leaders have enough money to continue the circus and pay for their Lear jets.

  • Good on you Bill again and again.
    Very timely as the Canberra House of Prayer, The National Day of Prayer and Fasting and The Canberra Declaration groups are urgently calling for 3 days of prayer, repentance and fasting from Friday 10th August to Sunday 12th August 2018
    files.constantcontact.com/e29abb3f001/77383501-692d-43a1-8f6e-0266868a2913.pdf

  • God is working. Why do people think we are in drought? Global warming?

    Lev 26:3 If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and do them,
    Lev 26:4 then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
    Lev 26:5 And your threshing shall reach to the vintage, and the vintage shall reach to the sowing time. And you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
    (MKJV)

    Do people think there are no consequences to ignoring God? God sanctioned democracy, letting the people have their way, in 1 Sam 8 but He made it clear that there would be consequences to taking a different king. Our democracy has been one of the most successful but that does not mean we did not still have huge way to go. Unfortunately we have chosen lies over truth and to take ourselves as our own god and to worship the “god of forces” and I don’t believe this situation will be corrected while we see constant propaganda and brainwashing from the likes of the ABC and SBS. Truth has has power but it can be overcome, temporarily, if people are prevented from hearing and seeing the truth. The fact that God calls Himself our King means that God is political and we need to get Him back into politics and into society because we only end up in more debt and with more crises and disasters without Him. We will learn the easy way or the hard but these are objective truths and they will be learned one way or another. Truth, justice and mercy and respect for God have to be our foundation, just as they largely were in the past, or else failure and collapse is inevitable. We cannot go on basing society on more and more lies and going into more and more debt to try to cover the fact that what we are doing is not working. Have we not yet seen enough societies try this and fail to understand? We cannot go on continually mortgaging more and more of the future without there being an inevitable reckoning. Being lovers solely of pleasure can only ever be temporary just as the prodigal son taught us. There are consequences and while we can work hard to continually prop up a failing structure all that means is the collapse will just end up being that much greater and more disastrous. People simply have not learned that we did have something good and we have lost it and it simply will not be recovered with more and more socialism and government spending and covetousness. We once we were a light to the world but now we are just another failing country with fewer and fewer answers to more and more problems. We need to wake up but it won’t happen while we are continually lulled into stupidity by corrupt media.

  • Phil, what other choices did Australian voters in the by-elections have though? According to the ABC (www.abc.net.au/news/elections/july-2018-by-elections/) Turnbull didn’t even bother contesting 2 of the 5, and there was a swing against Liberal candidates in the other 3. Perhaps there was a good minor party not mentioned in the results but it seems the main alternatives voters considered were the Far Left Greens, and the libertarian Liberal Democrat party.

    It’s easy to say that Australian voters support deception and incompetence, but what alternatives are there? I agree very few politicians serve anyone other than themselves, and even if we could agree about some who do seem servant minded, they’re not exactly blemish free!!!.

  • Bill, I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Newland. The issue of and resources for good apologetic re Genesis 1-11 as sober history is primary to the change that must take place in the professing Christian Church. Genesis is the foundation for all other doctrines and Christian practices. What use is it to try and build anything on a rotten foundation that does not give the Eternal God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit their proper place within our doctrines?

  • I told people in 2000 GW bush wasn’t the christian he made himself out to be. People poo-pood me then and they elected him and then Christendom fell asleep they basically said ‘wake me in four years to reelect him’ we ended up with of of the worst expansion of government powers under him (later expanded upon by Obama but W led the way). Only after 8 years did people finally wake up to ‘maybe he isn’t the christian we thought he was’. I said in 2016 that unless we see the church go out and really fight to change things spiritually in America I would rather Hillary win and get the judgment over with than elect trump (who I did think would be POLITICALLY good for US) and have the church go back to sleep since our judgment then would be WORSE for having squandered our reprieve.

    I am NOT seeing spiritual change just political. Politics and the economy and the culture are but mere SYMPTOMS of the SPIRITUAL disease and treating the symptoms without treating the disease does nothing! It is like taking a aspirin for the headache cause by a massive cancerous brain tumor. It does NOTHING for the tumor but mask the pain. You have to treat the tumor. We are taking the aspirin but refusing to treat America’s tumor. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the church sold it’s soul for political power and influence and we still believe THAT is the way to win back America. We are ready to fight but we are using the worlds rules. We seeded ground to the world on so many issues over the years and now we are paying the price.

    Satan started working his plan for America in the last half of the 1800’s (1870’s at the latest) and has been slowly progressing us along. HE knew where he was going but we couldn’t see the big picture or put another way we couldn’t see the forrest for the trees. every change was small so it didn’t seem like we were that different than before but if we had bothered to recall look back not just 5 years at a time but 20-30 or more at a time we might have started to notice things. (even when people told us where this was heading we joined the world in saying that wouldn’t happen. or saying ‘that can’t happen in a christian nation’) We disengaged culture now we find ourself hurting. We seem to think our only job was to win souls to christ and in all other things we let the world take care of itself. It isn’t like we have dominion over it or something. Oh wait WE DO!!!

    True bible believing christians are few and far between these days. of the 2 1/3 Billion who claim the title of christian I would estimate 3.5-5% are truly christian. truly the way is narrow and few that find it. someone wrote somewhere recently we need another Jesus movement -ah no with all the pagan music it brought and the casual approach to God that is NOT what we need! What we need is a new AWAKENING! a massive coming to God on a national scale. But until the church starts turning to God until we start looking to HIM to solve the problem and not our politicians we won’t have one. God almost always partners with man in what he does but man MUST do his part. One so called preacher teaches ‘sit back and let god do it all’ (he has commercials were he basically states this) but that isn’t how God has always worked he expects you to do your part.

    I just hope that when God’s judgment falls on America that it will be swift so whatever is left can turn to him. An EMP might be the best thing for America since we would be force to rely on God to help us. America can’t escape the fire that awaits her but maybe she can live through it and come out of it refined instead of destroyed. I don’t know how your grid is whether it could stay up to a EMP but maybe a EMP would help Australia too. By taking all modern conveniences away we only have each other and God maybe then we will all finally come to him. Stiff-neckedness isn’t just an ancient Israeli trait. Christianity flourished in the first few centuries under persecution but became fat and lazy under comfort. Maybe the church in the west needs to have persecution again, or at the very least great hardship, in order to shine again. A rough diamond need to be worked on heavily before it shines. some might object say we just need a little polish but with as backslide and worldly as the church has become we are closer to a rough diamond than a dull lightly scratched one. You can put a tuxedo on a leper but he is still a leper. A polishing won’t help us. We need a major overhaul. BUT until we open our eyes, collectively, and see our backslidden, worldly, LAODICEAN state we can not change.

  • Hi Andrew.
    The public could have voted Liberal in 3 seats yet they chose the cheap lies of Bill Shorten. More Hospitals and schools? Cheap slogans that mean nothing.
    The average voter in Australia is an idiot . They think we can continue to live beyond our means . They think continuing climbing DEBT levels are sustainable . They think a serious worldwide recession will never happen. They are not prepared to make sacrifices for the future. When Tony Abbott tried to control medical expenses he was attacked. Selfishness rules our society and politicians reflect this status. The greens again wish to remove Prayer from Parliament. One question-How many stupid Christians vote Green.? I think the answer would be frightening.
    Woe is Australia if labor is returned. I will be voting Cory Bernardi and CDP for the senate.
    Regards
    Phil

  • Andrew/Phil, I was shocked and disappointed the Australian Conservatives didn’t run any candidates on Super Saturday.

    I listen to Cory Bernardi’s Weekly Dose of Common Sense podcast and the reason he gave for AC not running was, ummm, not very convincing. (He said it was to give voters a straight choice between the Libs and Labor?!?)

    My common sense tells me a by-election is a great opportunity to get your candidates out there door knocking. You might only get 10% but that’s 10% of the electorate that now know you, have voted for you and become a solid foundation for you to build on to get to 20% at the next poll.

    I don’t know what’s really going on here but I hope and pray with the wonderful Lyle Shelton in control of communications at AC things will improve and they will be a force at the next election, whenever that is.

  • National revival? Well it starts with we Christians does it not? I see DR Michael Youseff on early Sunday mornings and he preaches the neverchanging gospel to an ever changing world with a sense of urgency, then as iI head out to church I hear the EXPERIENCE CHURCH on LIGHT FM and it strikes me that these messages some weeks are more therapeutic than theological, more moralistic than ministry. No wonder as Leonard Ravenhill wrote revival tarries!
    We have church leaders in the Catholic church when it comes to child abuse, act more like company men and protect the church, than as Christ’s men and pastor those who suffered and who still do, and revival tarries.

  • Until people unite under the banner of righteousness this situation will not change.

  • Dear Bill,
    This article causes me to recall that I have been asked if you have ever commented on our Manus and Christmas Island situations in relation to the Muslim/refugee issue. Obviously there is a dichotomy between the ‘good’ Muslims and those of ulterior motives. Parallel to this would be Mr Dutton’s (and perhaps others) approach to this matter.
    Can our Federal Government be supported in how they operate in these situations, or not?
    Thank you for your ongoing work.
    Chester

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