As I write this we are nearing voting day. By the time it posts the election will be over and, most likely, barring hanging chads, miss programmed voting machines and run offs, the results will be known. Will liberals hold on to the political power or will conservatives capture the Senate and hold the House? Will either one make a substantial difference? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that we live in a post-Christian age at least among the movers, shakers and decision makers who control the nation.
No longer is it permissible to view the practice of homosexuality as a sin but churches who teach the biblical view on this may be subject to having to answer to the government for their teaching as demonstrated by Houston Mayor Annise Parker sending out a subpoena to five pastors demanding :
All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.
The 2014 film Persecuted has a plot not unlike what we have watched in Houston except for framing the pastors for murder.
Reformed drug addict and America’s leading evangelist John Luther (James Remar) opposes Senator Donald Harrison’s (Bruce Davison) Faith and Fairness Act which would not allow Christians to state that they have the whole/only truth. To destroy Luther’s credibility and ensure passage of the bill Luther is framed for the rape and murder of a teenage girl. Persecuted (film)
As Joe Carter points out in Houston Mayor to Pastors: On Second Thought, Let’s Forget About Those Subpoenas the subpoena was recently withdrawn due to the “national outcry.” Perhaps, receiving hundreds of Bibles and being in the national news was helpful as well. But, this sort of persecution of free speech of Christians will continue and become institutionalized as our culture becomes more and more like the culture of the First Century Roman Empire in which the Church was born.
This is aided by a growing biblical illiteracy inside and outside the church as demonstrated by the New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies. In addition to viewing the Son as less divine than the Father we read:
But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person.
Even World Net Daily endorses the heretical teachers, Michael Rood (holds the views of The Way International) and Joe Kovacs (holds to the views of the late Herbert W. Armstong) as outlined in the Public Letter to Joseph Farah Exposing Michael Rood and Hebrew Roots by James Kieferdorf.
Is the lack of orthodoxy in the biblical faith evidence of rejection of the faith or of a lack of serious teaching of both biblical doctrine and church history? New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies writes:
Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology at Wheaton College, said, “Orthodoxy is life-giving, and God’s people need access to it.” Participants who gave unorthdox answers are not heretics, but probably lacked quality resources, she said. “Church leaders need to be able to teach the truth of the faith clearly and accurately, and we need to be able to show people why this matters for our lives.”
For Nichols, one way forward in understanding God and ourselves is to consult the historic church. “While slightly over half see value in church history, [nearly] 70 percent have no place for creeds in their personal discipleship,” he said. For Nichols, the church’s knowledge of its past will determine its future. Knowing heresies and how they were overcome, he says, will help the church stay on the right track theologically.
How does this impact the question of culture and persecution? The answer is fairly simple. Bad doctrine in essential areas translates into bad behavior. In addressing the physicality of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul touches on the persecution he suffered because of his stand for orthodoxy on the resurrection and pauses to insert this interesting little phrase in verse 33 & 34:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
Beth Felkner Jones was correct, “Church leaders need to be able to teach the truth of the faith clearly and accurately, and we need to be able to show people why this matters for our lives.”
Will the persecution continue and perhaps spread? I do believe that it will. As the church continues becoming doctrinally weaker and with that more culturally accepting there will be less and less challenge to the non-believers. The natural result will be greater persecution but take heart:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.(2 Corinthians 4:7-12)
Standing for the truth of Scripture is not easy but those who do it bring life to those whose lives they touch inside and outside the church. The lives, teaching and behavior of the First Century Church was transformative on the culture in which they lived. Western culture benefited from that for the next 1900 years. Imitating their behavior could again be transformative after all, trying to imitate culture has transformed the church in the wrong direction.