Should Christians Accept that an Anti-Christian ‘Secularized Society’ is Inevitable?
In an earlier article (“Christian Lawyer and Church Elder Says Christians Must ‘Surrender to Unbelievers at Every Level’”) I dealt with comments made by Carlos Chung who argued that “As soldiers of Christ, we are to surrender to unbelievers at every level.” Chung’s article appears on “The Master’s Seminary Blog.” If this is what seminarians are being taught, we are in big trouble.
While not addressing Chung’s article directly and agreeing with some of my comments, Michael Brown vehemently disagrees that Christians should surrender to the secularists:
As followers of Jesus, we are called to submit to the laws of the land and to honor those in authority. The New Testament is very clear on this (see especially Romans 13:1-7). It is also very clear that there are exceptions to this rule, namely, when the authorities require us to disobey the Lord (see Acts 5:40-42). In that case, with respect, we say, “We must obey God rather than man” (see Acts 4:18-20; 5:29; to be perfectly clear, I’m speaking of non-violent resistance to the law.)
That time has come for parents in California.
In good conscience, they must say NO to the school authorities and YES to the Lord. It’s time to declare to the schools of California, “Quit using our children as pawns in the culture wars! Quit sexualizing our kids!”Pastor John MacArthur has stated that he “couldn’t care less about the culture wars.” I’m curious to know what he would say to Christian parents who attend his church about what type of anti-Christian education their children are getting and have been getting for decades in California and across the United States.
Education is part of the culture wars. In fact, it’s the driving force behind the culture wars. Whoever controls the schools rules the world.
Should Christian parents surrender their children to the educational establishment as “soldiers of Christ”? As a way of reminder, here’s what Chung wrote: “We are to surrender in public and in private, at the macro level and on the micro level, on a national scale and on a private scale. We are to surrender to every secular authority that is placed over us.”
I agree with Dr. Brown that Christian parents “must say NO to the school authorities and YES to the Lord.” They should do this by taking their children out of the government schools while they have the freedom to do so.
There is no way to avoid the culture wars. The answer, contrary to Chung, is not to surrender to the state government of California. Parents have a duty to protect their children from the pestilence of governmental and educational evil. They need to be proactive as our Christian forefathers were. Surrender is not an option.
In a previous article Chung wrote the following:
A secularized society is one that divorces itself from spiritual truths. It casts off what it perceives to be the foolishness of Scripture, and then each man begins to do that which is right in his own eyes. Over time, a secularized society will become increasingly hostile toward God and the people of God.
We have seen this progression in our own culture.
There was a time when God and Scripture were woven into the fabric of this nation. This is not to say that our nation was ever Christian, but if you look at the seminal documents that gave birth to this nation, you will find them replete with references not only to God, but Scripture. Today we live in a very different society.
Why do we live in “a different society” today? Because Christians have been told to surrender to the secular forces of the day and not to involve ourselves beyond personal spiritual piety.
John MacArthur wrote something very familiar in his book Why Government Can’t Save You, MacArthur opens the first chapter with a description of how things used to be:
There was a time when nearly everyone could name off all the Ten Commandments, but today most don’t know what the Ten Commandments are…. [T]ere was a time (not so many years ago), when respectable citizens uniformly disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; believed sexual promiscuity was absolutely wrong; disdained cursing or obscene language; saw abortion as unthinkable; and automatically held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. But today many citizens, when polled on such issues, view them either as acceptable practices, civil rights, or inconsequential matters.1
Why was there “such a time”? Because Christians were actively engaged with their world long before the phrase “culture wars” was coined.
Can you imagine what our world be like if the views of Chung and MacArthur were prevalent 2000 years ago? Christians and non-Christians are living off the stored capital of past generations of Christians who did not surrender to secular forces. Chung even admits this: “if you look at the seminal documents that gave birth to this nation, you will find them replete with references not only to God, but Scripture.” What happened? Christians are being told not to vote and not to engage in the culture wars. I’m sure glad Chung’s views weren’t around when Christians applied their Christianity to the realm of politics when the United States were established.
Much of the problem of the above thinking is that the primary proponents of such views have an eschatology that’s out of whack. They are always claiming that we’re living on the precipice of history. Something called the “rapture” is always just around the corner.
We’re told that what we’re seeing in the world is a prophetic inevitability. MacArthur said the following in his short video on the Culture Wars:
I can’t get engaged in a culture war if you are just shifting around the furniture of the deck of the Titanic. This thing is going down, and it doesn’t matter how we arrange the moral furniture. What matters is that we have lives that impact eternity that bring people the gospel that saves them forever.
There you have it. All the stored moral capital built up over centuries didn’t mean a hill of beans because “this thing is going down.” How long have we been hearing the end-time mantra that Jesus is coming soon to rescue His church from a Great Tribulation?
William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984):
I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.2
Edgar speculates, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s “premillenarian eschatology,” a position shared by Chung and MacArthur, that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, did not call for cultural transformation but civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline. “The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society…. The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you ‘can’t fight something with nothing,’ but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.”3
Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:
“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology … that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need…. The response of the (student) … reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.4
Eschatological ideas have consequences, and many Christians are beginning to understand how those ideas have shaped the cultural landscape. A world always on the precipice of some great and inevitable apocalyptic event is not in need of redemption but only of escape. As one end-time speculator put it, “the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment.”5 Any attempt at reformation would be futile and contrary to God’s unavoidable and predestined plan for Armageddon.
- John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You: Alternative to Political Activism (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000), 3-4. [↩]
- William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174. [↩]
- Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127–128. Emphasis in original. [↩]
- Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69. Emphasis added. [↩]
- Jan Markell, “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden.” For a response, see Gary DeMar, “Is the World a Sinking Titanic?,” Biblical Worldview (May 2007), 4–6. [↩]