CultureWatch

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

How NOT To Respond To the Evils of Our Day

Nov 5, 2018

Anyone who knows a bit about me and my ministry knows that I deal with a lot of rather unpleasant stuff – evil, dark and destructive matters. Whether it is things like abortion, or Islamic jihad, or the war on marriage and family, or the sexualisation of our children, or the undermining of our civilisation, I deal with some hardcore stuff.

Of course since I am a Christian it is not all gloom and doom. It can’t be, because I know that one day all wrongs will be dealt with, and the good guys will win. Believers know that God is still on the throne, and we know that he gives us grace while standing against evil and promoting biblical truth.

But the incessant battles of the day can certainly be exhausting and debilitating. It is easy to get overwhelmed with what is happening all around us, not just with things in the world, but things in the church as well. Anyone who has a concern for seeing righteousness lifted up in the world and purity promoted in the churches knows how bad things are.

There are various ways Christians can respond to all this. The proper way – as I have so often argued for – is to care, to get involved, to pray, to resist evil, and seek to be salt and light. Being a Christian in a dark and broken world is never easy, but it is what we are called to do.

And that case I have made often, including the need to get involved in the culture wars, to stand up for biblical values in a secular culture, and to affirm God’s ideals for his church. I for one will keep doing this until I am no longer able to. It is my calling which I must faithfully discharge.

And while everyone of course does not share a similar calling to mine, there are nonetheless far too many believers who have responded rather poorly to all that we see happening around us. There are a number of unhelpful and unbiblical responses that need to be challenged, and moved away from. Here then are three such faulty responses:

Ignore the evil altogether

This is one way to respond – but a very wrong way. Simply keep your head in the sand and pretend nothing is going on out there in the world. Just ignore everything going on around you, and look after only yourself. That is how many people respond, but there is nothing Christian about such a response.

We have an obligation to let our Christian faith have an impact on those around us, and for the lordship of Christ to extend to all areas of life. We are not meant to hide our light under a basket, but to let it shine for the whole world to see. We are meant to be a salty people who have an impact on the world around us.

Closing your eyes and ears to all the evil and suffering around us is NOT the Christian response. While we cannot do everything about everything, we can do something about some of the pressing needs and problems around us. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And again: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

Shoot the messenger

This is also a common response, and I get this one all the time. ‘Oh Bill, you are just too negative.’ They want me to just think happy thoughts, accentuate the positive, and ignore the negative. They want nothing to do with anything ‘negative.’ Just recently one believer told me, “Wow you paint a pretty bleak picture!”

Um, just what is the murder of millions of unborn babies, the sexualisation of our children, the war on truth, the incursion of militant Islam, the destruction of marriage and family, the escalation of anti-Christian bigotry and oppression – to name but a few issues – if not some pretty bleak stuff? What do YOU call that?

Being a Pollyanna and just focusing on the positive is not going to stop the abortion holocaust or prevent IS thugs from lopping off the heads of Christians. Wishing it all away is not going to help anyone. And asking us just to focus on the positive is not at all biblical. Try telling that to the person being raped or the family losing their home or the terminal cancer patient.

And where have we seen this mindset before? Oh yeah, the Old Testament prophets were routinely condemned and rejected for dwelling on the negative and delivering all the bad news. The Israelites back then were just like so many Christians today: they only wanted the happy and cheerful stuff, and refused to listen to any words about sin, evil, wrath, and judgment to come.

I have a few words for these folks: instead of simply shooting the messenger, why not wake up to the real world? Why not open your eyes to the very real evil that is out there, and ask God how you might be a part of the solution? Why not leave your world of fantasy and make-believe and get back down to planet earth?

Hyper-spiritualise everything

Another very common response to all the evil in the world is to simply offer a distorted theological response. Biblical truths will be invoked, but they will be twisted and distorted in ways they were never meant to be. One of the more common examples of this is to run with the idea of God’s sovereignty.

Now, is God sovereign? Absolutely. Is he still on the throne? You bet. But we can misuse such glorious biblical truths and end up getting into a sort of Christian fatalism. You hear this all the time:
‘It is all meant to happen’
‘It is all God’s will’
‘We know how the story ends’
‘This is just as the Bible predicted’
‘We must be living in the end times’
‘Scripture says things will get worse’

There is some truth in all these statements, but far too often they are thrown out carelessly and with the express aim to say something further: ‘Since all this is predicted, and since God is sovereign, we should not be bothered by any of this. Just sit back and relax. Just let God do his thing. No need to fret or get involved.’

But this is a distortion of some basic biblical truths. That God is still on the throne does NOT mean we just sit back and do nothing. That God is working out his purposes does NOT mean everything that happens is just peachy, and we never take a stand against evil and injustice.

The truth is, we live in a real world with real sin and real evil. Sinful people exist, and sinful actions abound. And believers are called to BOTH trust God AND work for righteousness while resisting that which is evil. Wilberforce could thus fully rely on God’s sovereignty, while doing all he possibly could to fight the evil slave trade.

And we just need to make all this personal and practical to see what a ridiculous and unbiblical copout this can be. If for example my wife is being raped by a gang of men, I will NOT sit back and say ‘We know how the story ends, so why fight it. It is God’s will!’

If my child is choking on a bit of food stuck in her throat, I will NOT sit back and say, ‘Thank God he is sovereign and everything that happens is his express will, so I will just sit back and see God at work!’ If your pastor or priest is pushing this line, you may need to find a new place to worship.

Indeed, if they discovered that their church or parish was on fire, they would very likely NOT sit back and say ‘Praise the Lord – we know that God triumphs in the end!’ If they had half a brain they would call the fire department and try to DO something about this.

Yet when we hear about the worldwide abortion genocide, Islamic terrorism and creeping sharia, or the ongoing war on marriage and family, far too many hyper-spiritualised Christians will just come up with these lame excuses: ‘God is at work, we are not to be fazed by this, and we just accept it all as God’s will!’

While the theological and biblical discussion of God’s sovereignty is complex indeed, no real biblical Christian uses it as an excuse to do nothing and say nothing. Yes God is in charge, but he still commands us to do many things, including acting as real salt and light in a very dark world.

What then can I do?

As I said above, we are not all called to the same ministry or the same Christian activity. We are all called to care, to pray, and to seek to be salt and light, but how that works out specifically for individual Christians can vary greatly. Let me offer just one example of this.

I believe that every single person who names the name of Christ should have a very high regard for the sanctity of life. As such, all believers should resist the culture of death all around us and seek to be a voice for the voiceless. All believers can be involved here.

When it comes to something like abortion, there are many things believers can do. I happen to work on the public policy side of things. I will put in submissions to government inquiries; I will lobby politicians; and I will engage in the war of ideas in the public arena.

Not every believer has that sort of calling. But all of you can pray about matters like this. All of you can become more informed about these things. All of you can vote for prolife candidates and/or prolife political parties. All of you can refuse to have an abortion yourself.

Many of you can contact your politicians about this. Many of you can support a prolife ministry or organisation. Many of you can volunteer at a pregnancy crisis centre. Many of you can encourage your pastor and church to speak out on this issue. Many of you can join a peaceful, prayerful presence outside of an abortion mill.

So there is really no end to what we can do to stand up for life and resist the abortion culture. I do not expect you all to do what I do. But I do expect that all of you will carefully consider how you can stand in the gap for those being led to the slaughter.

Evil and suffering surround us everywhere. How will you respond? I hope the three wrong responses I discussed will not be your choice. Instead, we need the same mindset as that of William Booth:

While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!

[1895 words]

15 Responses to How NOT To Respond To the Evils of Our Day

  • I mentioned last year of the AFL now playing a match on good friday.
    I see next year they are playing 2 games on good friday. soon we will be playing cricket
    on Christmas day……WHO CARES ?

  • I am battling this misinterpreted idea of Gods sovereignty with my pastor and his wife right now. They brag that they voted for a certain dishonest and odious politician, and while acknowledging the man is dishonest and odious, they say in the next breath, “This is God’s will because God put him in office.” I wince at this and want to ask them, “Is it God’s will or YOUR will? Is the man in office because you and other individuals unwisely voted for him?” I distinctly remember various scriptures that tell believers not to be partakers of the evil deeds of others, and yet these people think they are helping God’s will along by getting on the band wagon with a blatantly sinful and corrupt individual. Why not just get on the band wagon with the Devil and get it over with??? Whatever happened to standing up for what is right, true, and honest to honor God and His Word? I would like to know your thoughts on this, Bill, as I am about to change churches rather than have to tune out this garbage any more.

  • Thanks Sheila. More Christian fatalism it seems. The issue here is discussed by Paul in Romans 13:1-7. Normally we see God’s hand in government, and are told to submit to it. But this is not an absolute. We submit to human government as it submits to God. When the government or the politician of the day is running opposed to God’s principles and values, we need not give ultimate allegiance to them. As R. C. Sproul says about this passage:

    “We are always and everywhere to obey the authorities over us – boss, police, governor, whatever that authority may be – unless that authority commands us to do something that God forbids, or forbids us from doing something that God commands. Sometimes we are to disobey. If the civil magistrate calls us to sin, we must say no.”

    But I speak to this more fully here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/09/09/the-state-unjust-laws-and-civil-disobedience/

  • Amos was told by the high priest at the royal shrine at Bethel to “Go home.”. We need not expect to be popular when we tell the world God’s awful truth – no matter how lovingly we present that truth. The Truth Incarnate was met by Pilate’s cynical “What is truth?” and then handed over to those who should have welcomed and defended the truth to be crucified…

  • I needed this article this morning! My life, physically and mentally have been beyond the pale. I had major surgery, I was diagnosed with leukemia last May and my son refuses to let me see my Grandson because he believes I am mentally ill. I am mentally ill because I have talked about the things you write about in your article. His life and his wife go through life declaring there is nothing you can do about the facts you mention in your article and that God will handle it all. His pastor feels the same way and tells people to not to think about social dysfunction and evil. In fact they never talk about it because it is scary. I will continue to, as you do, to hold my ground and not change to satisfy the culture of cowards.

  • Bill,
    There are people who identify as Christian but are ashamed of Christ’s word – Matt 19: 4-6 “Haven’t you read, “he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Jesus was referring to Genesis 1:27; 2:24, so he claimed that Genesis is the truth about God’s original ideal for marriage. However, there are people who identify as Christians who claim that the Book of Genesis shouldn’t be taken seriously because it is only a poem or myth and it doesn’t fit in with the evolution theories nor does it fit in with the secular idea that a civil registered marriage is between 2 people.

    There are people who claim they believe that Christ can raise them from the dead and they’re followers of Christ, but they continue to ignore his words about God’s creation of marriage between one man and one woman for life. In other words, they will believe Christ’s words when it fits their belief system, and they will ignore Christ’s words when their ashamed to repeat it in public. If Jesus believed in the secular idea that God made people that way, then he could have warned John the Baptist to not lose his head over King Herod’s adulterous marriage. Also, if John the Baptist believed in the secular idea that God loves all people, then this would have prevented him from telling King Herod that his marriage was unlawful.

    All civil celebrants must now declare that the Marriage law in Australia is “between 2 people.” There are Christians/Catholic, religious people and secular people who don’t believe that “marriage is between 2 people” for themselves. What kind of people would voluntary allow the government authorities a legal right to regulate (control) them by a public marriage registry, so then the Family court have a legal right to punish them with a no fault divorce law for a fee?

    The Australian Federal Parliament didn’t see the unintended consequence of removing the criteria of an exclusive union between one man and one woman for life from a civil registered marriage, nor did the courts forsee the unintended consequences of replacing God’s laws on adultery and breaking a man-woman “one flesh” (marriage) oath for a no fault divorce law. I don’t need nor want the status of civil registered marriage nor a legal divorce, so I can ignore/reject the 2017 amended Marriage Act and no fault divorce law because I am not mentally ill to believe “marriage is between 2 people.” The word “people” includes unborn, babies, children, parents, students, teachers, nurses, doctors, patients, clients, sex workers, sex offenders, victims, priests, nuns, parishioners etc. The secular idea that any of these 2 people can have a sexual relationship and call it marriage is a delusional fantasy. The secular idea that a civil registered marriage has removed the criteria of sex, despite a legal registration with animals, vehicles, houses, property have never been recognised as a marriage. The secular idea that a lawful husband can now sodomise their lawful spouse has created confusion about marital rape. There are people who believe that the UK is married to the EU and Brexit is a real legal divorce from the EU. The Australian Federal Parliament has created confusion about the meaning of civil registered marriage, but Christ remained extremely clear on the true meaning of “one flesh” marriage between one man and one woman for life. People who identify as “Christian” can ignore/reject Christ’s words about God’s original ideal for marriage, but they’re not living the will of God.

  • I think you missed the one where they claim that “Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Funny that they miss that although Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world we are told to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth …” and are told that we are the body of Christ and are told to act as such in this wold. Yes Jesus’ kingdom is in the spiritual but what people do and support and say is most definitely spiritual. How you can pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” and then actively work against what God says or at least not use your skills in support of it, is surely a clear demonstration of hypocrisy.

    Luk_6:46 And why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?
    (MKJV)

  • Thanks, Bill for doing your job in a dark world!
    You clarify and tell us the basic truths we all need to recall.

    It set me thinking about stories I’ve heard of people who have successfully coped with unplanned pregnancies, difficult family situations, broken relationships, and other kinds of grief with which this world abounds!
    I’m thinking that getting out there and saying,”We’re married and like it.”
    “I’ve had a runaway child who found his family again.”
    (we have a stolen generation person who is part of our family, and I’m researching and telling that one too.)
    I’m a story teller, from way back, and telling stories about Christ’s hospitality, love and forgiveness, as it is lived out in our dark world is another valuable ministry to our family friends and neighbours.
    Mary

  • Few Christians understand that cowards are told they will not inherit eternal life.
    New International Version
    ‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’
    Also, courage increases with practise and we are responsible for thinking long term rather than being fatalistic and apathetic.

  • Well done Bill. You are an encouragement to me to speak out, whenever, and however I can!

  • If this news report is accurate then sadly it seems the Sydney Anglicans are backing down….
    https://www.smh.com.au/education/schools-letter-misinterpreted-as-homophobic-anglican-archbishop-says-20181105-p50e2n.html

    But again, if this article is accurate, then the root cause is mixed messages being taught all along in Anglican schools:
    https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-05/anglican-schools-right-to-discriminate-letter-opinion/10465276?pfmredir=sm

  • Unfortunately, hypocrisy is within the Uniting Church of Australia as it decided on two different meanings of marriage. Which is easier to believe that God created Adam (man) and Eve (woman) for a “one flesh” (marriage) in order to fill the earth with people or that Christ will return and he will raise believers from the dead? There are people who fantasise about “Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world,” and they even believe Christ will raise them from the dead, but at the same time they ignore/reject God’s original ideal for marriage because their heart is so hard and stubborn like Pharaoh. Noah was mocked by non-believers for building an Ark, and today many genuine Christians are mocked for believing marriage is an exclusive union between one man and one woman for life.

    The Australian Federal Parliament have attempted to deceive Australians to believe in a civil registered marriage between 2 people. This legal contract/consent to a no fault divorce law for a fee, then allows a legal civil marriage registration to be “irretrievably broken-down” for a fee, and this is equivalent to a civil partnership registration which can be revoked for a fee. The state governments force sex workers and sex offenders to identify their type of sexual behaviour as their names and details are recorded on different public registries. However, many civil registered married people don’t understand the real reason their name and details are on a public marriage registry and they can no longer identify with a type of sexual behaviour because the criteria of sex have been removed.

  • Thank you so much for this sobering article! I agree with your thoughts and values 100%. At the same time, your beautiful and many ideas on what one can actually do as a Christian, to work towards, for example, less abortions in society, made me evaluate my own stake in the game and sadly, I see that I’m failing my own beliefs. I need to rise up, and stop just sighing over all the evil around me and start to actually do something about it. I do pray, and praying is a good start, but it’s not enough. We are made the body of Christ and as such, we need to follow the will of our head Jesus, and do what he asks us to do, through his word and our conscience. Thank you for making that clear to me.

  • Dear Bill. Thank you for being a bright light in this darkend world. Here in South Africa we have in the region of 10 000 “churches” , 99% being of a tent or backyard self enrichment type. The blatant evil that they sprout prays upon low IQ , desperate people, who firmly believe instant riches will appear in their pockets overnight, as preached by these lying snake oil salespeople / pastors/bishops/ etc etc etc. The list of self made up titles is staggering.

    What I find very disheaterning is the blatant hypocracy of “world renowned” church leaders like Noble prize winning Arch Biship Desmond Tutu and his ilk. People keep quiet because they are “demonized ” if they speak up against the evils that these notables support. Too many of the current “official clergy” serve Lucifer instead of Jesus. Decent people live in fear of the violent thugs who will come and burn your home down and rape and murder your family while you are forced to watch before being violently killed yourself.
    This is the actual reality that we live with daily. Those who scoff at this, I challange them to come and I will personaly take them around and let them find out for themselves what real evil is actually like.
    Every evening we pray for the Lords protection, and every day we give thanks for Life.
    Strength and courage to you Bill and to all the others who try to stand up and make a difference.

Leave a Reply