THE END OF CULTURE

ENTER-- THE DAY OF THE BEAST AND THE WRATH OF GOD?

The following article was distributed by Pastor John Helgerson of Church of the Open Bible in Burlington, Mass.  The article was first authored by Dr. Richard Flanders in Christian View of the News, Norman Pyle, Editor, Vol. 23, No. 2, Feb. 1998.  After discussion of the present situation in the USA and the world, we will look at another author from the past on the subject of culture.  This should be a very controversial discussion with some readers.  Please read it all before you react.


THE CHURCH AND THE CULTURE

Most Americans believe that our culture is decay ing, and that moral decline presents the greatest danger we face. Writers and speakers from different positions on the philosophical or political spectrum have commented with dismay upon this decadence, and preachers have given many sermons on it. Hardly anything can serve to verify for the public mind the authority of the Bible more than the cultural decline of our country over the past thirty-five years. Actually, the downward slide began much earlier than this, but the rapidity of the descent has greatly increased since the middle sixties. Anyway, Romans 1 has been illustrated before our eyes. Truth without righteousness has led to the darkening of the mind. Darkened minds have perverted truth. Perverted truth has brought moral weakness, which has given way to sexual immorality and perversion. Now we see more and more the fruit of  "a reprobate mind" that acknowledges no God or moral law and allows for every kind of cruelty, wickedness, and evil. It's all Romans 1.

The Bible calls the moral decay that results from unheeded and then rejected truth "corruption." In the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 31 and 32 the word for "corrupt" in the phrases "ye will utterly corrupt yourselves" and "they have corrupted themselves" is a word that has the idea of decay. Moses was given a song to teach the Israelites that would serve as a warning against the cultural and spiritual corruption that comes when God and His Law are neglected.

For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days,' because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands (Deut. 3 1:29).

Believers in the true God must always be concerned about cultural corruption because at its root it is rejection of divine authority. But believers are also interested in saving souls, and so many in our times have been willing to forget about the culture in order to bring sinners to the church. This strategy is a great mistake and has denied many a ministry the blessing of God.

The idea is widely accepted among evangelicals that if cultural corruption is resisted by churches, the unsaved we are trying to reach will be "turned off" by our antiquated ways and unwilling to listen to our message. Isn't there a way to preach the Gospel in language and with trappings acceptable to modern man? A Christian youth movement years ago used the slogan "Anchored to the Rock: Geared to the Times." Cannot the church be geared to the times while still anchored to the Rock? Sadly, however, when we gear the Gospel to the times, we can end up floating downstream with the flow of cultural decadence while trying to win as many souls as we can before we all go over the falls of societal collapse. This scenario is accept able to some Christians, but it does not represent the will of God for His church. We ought to preach the Gospel and uphold all the rest of God's truth at the same time. The churches should seek to preserve people from corruption as well as damnation. But most are doing everything but this.

In no area are evangelical churches going along with cultural decay more than in the field of music. More and more (probably most) supposedly orthodox churches today are inviting people to come and hear their "con temporary" music. Actually the style called "Contemporary Christian Music" can be more accurately defined as rock'n roll! Some of it is hard rock; some is soft rock; some is "rockabilly;" some is 1950's or 1960's rock but all so called CCM is rock music.

When pressed about this issue, young church musicians admit that the genre is rock, but they argue that musical style is a neutral medium  that only the words convey a message. Of course no true artist will say that his art conveys no message. Every serious painter or composer believes that some philosophy or statement is being communicated through his art. The creators of the rock'n roll style of music always claimed that their songs expressed the revolutionary themes of a new generation, rebellion against authority, and abandonment of sexual restraints. Not only have the originators of this style defined its message in this way, but also the best analysts of cultural decline have recognized this as the meaning of rock.

In 1987. Professor Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago wrote what the Chicago Tribune said "may be the most important work of its kind by an American since World War II." It is a book with the title, THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND , and it deals in depth with the role of higher education in the current cultural decline. A whole chapter early in the book is given to "Music." Professor Bloom observes:

Nothing is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music... .Today a very large portion of young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music. It is their passion. Nothing else excites them as it does. They cannot take seriously anything alien to music.... Rock music is as unquestioned and unproblematic as the air the students breathe.... But rock music has one appeal only. barbaric appeal to sexual desire.... Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse.... The inevitable corollary of such sexual interest is rebellion against the parental authority that represses it...

The professor says much more and convincingly links rock music to the elements of societal upheaval that have nearly destroyed the moral structure of our culture in the past thirty-five years. Any thoughtful observer can see that this is true. Rock music is the anthem of the revolt against God.

Judge Robert Bork was kept from serving on the United States Supreme Court, but he has not been kept from commenting on our cultural and moral decline. His latest

book, SLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH, has been widely read and acclaimed, and has brought the former Yale University law professor and U.S. Court of Appeals justice to the forefront of public discussion. In his book, he repeatedly refers to the role of rock music in our society's problems. He says in the Introduction that the rock songs of the sixties were among the "harbingers of a new culture" that overcame the old and took over the country. Later in the book he says that this music joined with other factors that "intensified the rebelliousness of the young."

Portable radios became widely available so that youths could choose their music without parental supervision. No longer must they sit in the living room with their parents and siblings to listen to the radio together. The music they now listened to was rock and roll, which their parents hated. It would be difficult to overstate the cultural importance of that music. Visiting Yugoslavia in that era, Irving Kristol learned that the regime banned rock because it was subversive of authority. In a personal communication he remarked that rock and roll is subversive of all authority, that of Western democracies, bourgeois families, schools, and church as well as communist dictatorships. Those in the rock business understood very well that the music's subversion of authority was a large part of its appeal to the young.

Anyone who has read Bork's book, or Bloom's best seller (and most evangelical leaders have) understands the corrupting character of rock music. WHY THEN DO CHURCHES USE IT?

Another form of capitulation to the cultural decay is the wholesale abandonment of the Bible of our forefathers by the "forward-looking" churchmen of our day. Many have been consumed by a passion to please modern textual scholarship and to make the language of Scripture clear and appealing to an educationally weak public. As a result, they have lost sight of the significance of the King James Bible to American culture. Amazingly accurate in its translation of the traditional Greek and Hebrew text, and profoundly exquisite in its classical English style, the old Bible is one of the marvels of all time. Its phrases and verses have been woven throughout our literature for many years, and its moral precepts have long been the foundation of our society. However, the proliferation of "new versions" of the Bible and the eagerness of clergymen to use them have served to dethrone the monarch of books in America, and have driven its lofty lines from American minds and publications.

New translations have not helped our people understand the Bible as much as they have confused them about the Bible. Fewer recognize Bible passages as each year passes, and even fewer try to memorize them. Without a standard English version of the Scripture, how can anyone quote the Bible with any accepted consistency? The Bible played a big part in American culture for a long time, but no longer. The fault must largely be placed upon the churches that have run after the latest Bible fad instead of preserving the old Bible at least for its cultural importance. The courts did not remove God's Word from its once prominent place in our public life, the churches did, in their mad dash to keep up with the times.

The changes that have come in society with the chang ing of the times have to a large degree been simply new stages in our corruption. This is why it is important for the churches to maintain rather than revise their moral and behavioral standards. If the definition of Christian living changes every time society moves its moral boundaries, the so-called Christian of tomorrow will be living the way a so-called sinner lives today! It is capitulation to corruption that has caused churches to back away from Bible based standards. In order not to appear negative" or "judgmental," preachers skip over Scripture passages and churches neglect Bible teachings. Thus they become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Recently, a very famous evangelist lamented on television the fact that the great successes of his crusades over the years had produced no visible effect on the moral decline of his country. The reason for the sad truthfulness of this observation is the general unwillingness of evangelicals to resist the corruption of our society from an unswervingly Biblical standpoint. Extreme examples of the decay, such as legal abortions and assisted suicide, are protested by some when enough non-Christians share their moral outrage. But these same evangelicals and fundamentalists are often involved in other ways in the very corruption of society that has produced the extremes. Certainly every church ought to stand in every community as an institution that resists cultural decay.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour. wherewith shall it be salted? it is thence forth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matt. 5:13)


Culture can be lost.  

Leonard Verduin, in Somewhat Less Then God, page 140-145, discusses how culture can be sterilized, how people then rebel against their masters who forbid them a culture, and he talks of how Christians are to influence culture, not rule it.

A second evil, one of equally great proportions, occasioned by the distortion that made Christianity into a culture-religion, was what we have ventured to call cultural sterilization. By this we mean that technique whereby a sizable segment of society was denied the right of cultural expression. In the heyday of Christendom. Europe was, of course, full of people who, although christened, were in the modality of fallenness. Such people could not contribute to a genuinely Christian culture; of course not; they were, however, prevented from cultural expression in a way consistent with the set of their souls. Such people were simply silenced. Think, for example, of the Index under the terms of which only the things permitted by the Church were allowed to appear in print. Think of the periodic book-burnings. Think of the hundred and one ways in which suppressed spirits, in an attempt to escape from cultural sterilization, sought to circumvent thought-control in the days of Christendom. Think of the troubadours, the Chambers of Rhetoric, to recite but these two examples of agonized attempts on the part of an element in medieval society to find a way of expressing itself culturally in spite of Christendom's censors.

Needless to say, these restrictions by which a large section of the society of the times was rendered culturally sterile were resented. Man is by definition a culture-creating creature and every attempt to sterilize him in the matter will be bitterly resented as bitterly as mass emasculation would be resented. Small wonder that a frightful backlash of resentment built up. Small wonder that, when it could no longer be restrained, it broke forth in devastating fury, a fury that left the land strewn with wreckage. What was the French Revolution if not a sudden and violent bursting forth of long-standing resentment against centuries

of cultural sterilization? Many parts of what was once known as Christendom have not to this day recovered from the damage that was done when long-pent-up resentment against cultural sterilization finally exploded. It remains to be seen whether the damage can ever be undone. One recalls the medieval doctrine, put forth and kept alive by the doctors of Christendom, that "heresy has no rights." This was not merely the view held by the theoreticians of Christendom, it was put in practice too. Often a confession was wrung from a "heretic" (recall that the etymological connotation of the word is "one-who-thinks-other wise" or "one-who-chooses-among-different-ways") by the promise of leniency and even acquittal; then, when the confession had been read in public, the promise was completely ignored and sentence followed, often the sentence of death. Is it any wonder that more than one official representative of Christendom got to hear words like this from victims he had thus duped: "Oh, you despicable liar, you promised to let us go if we put our name to your paper and now you send us to the fire anyway! May God forgive you your duplicity!"

A culture-religion cannot grant freedom of conscience. No culture- religion ever has granted it. At best it can be tolerant and that only after a fashion, as long as to be tolerant does not pose a real threat to its hegemony. The very word tolerant is intolerant; it is part of the verbal equipment of intolerance; it is a word that has meaning only in the context of a culture-religion. He who is merely tolerant is simply a person who sets limits to cultural sterilization, limits that stop nicely short of the danger point. A culture-religion is by definition suppressive, whether it be Buddhism or Shintoism or Islam or Christendom. The last named has as bad a record as any, perhaps a worse record than most. Authentic Christianity, however, does not feed tolerance; it feeds freedom, freedom of speech, of assembly, of utterance: best of all, of conscience; it provides the freedom to disbelieve.

Every culture is proud and more or less disdainful of other cultures. This is quite inescapable, man being the creature of culture that he is. A culture is the achievement of a population group its biggest, its total, achievement. When Christianity was reduced to a culture-religion, when it became the religion of a total population group, it naturally picked up this pride, this disdain for other cultures. Our classic example of cultural snobbishness is, of course, the Israel of the Old Testament. The world has seldom seen greater cultural snobbishness than that which characterized the population group in the midst of which Jesus lived. It was Jesus' refusal to be part of it a matter in which John the Baptist had been the way-preparer that set the rank and file of this population group against him. (Recall how, according to Luke's ac count, Jesus met His first rebuff when in the synagogue at Nazareth He reminded the culturally proud Jews, who were saying, "Is not this Joseph's son?" so making Jesus a product of their culture that "there were many widows in Israel . . but to none of them was Elijah sent but only to Zarephath in Sidon - . . And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian." This check on cultural pride was too much, so that, although Jesus had at first stolen their hearts by his "gracious words," they now had murder in their eyes as they made ready to throw him headlong over the cliff) It was St. Paul's refusal to be party any longer to the prevailing cultural snobbishness (he had been in the thick of it at first) that made men plan to "ambush Paul and kill him on the way." When Christianity allows itself to be reduced to a culture- religion, it becomes impossible to fight off the pride and the snobbish ness that characterize any and every culture.

No culture-religion can be missionary; at least not in the New Testament sense. The "missionary" activity of a culture-religion, also of Christendom, is a matter of annexation, subjugation, military subjugation if need be, and then integration into the cultural enclave out of which the "missionary" came. Such was the "mission" of pre-Christian Rome; such was the "mission" of Islam; such was also the "mission" of medieval Christendom. A classic example may be had in the "mission"  of Spain in the New World, where a representative of the ruler of the cultural enclave stepped ashore to claim the area for "His Majesty, the King of Spain"; a padre was on his heels to plant a cross; and a token baptism took place whereby the total populace was "christened." But this is not to mission in the New Testament sense. To mission in the New Testament sense is to go to parts where Christ is not yet named and to "get lost" there; quite literally, to become a member of that other cultural entity, never to be seen in the homeland again save for some much needed, and deserved, recuperation.

Our classic example of a culture-religion, with averseness to mission in its New Testament sense, is, of course, again, the culture-religion out of which Jesus, and His Church, emerged. It knew no mission, not even "a mission" (for it despaired of military conquest and consequent cultural annexation). It was Sr. Paul's repudiation of the un-missionary culture-religion and his espousal of mission in the New Testament sense that made him to be hated by his countrymen. Recall how that, even though Paul was speaking to them in Hebrew, as a concession to the cultural sensitivities of his hearers, they took off their coats and threw dust into the air, a sure way to get mob action started in the society of the day, as they hollered, "Away with such a fellow from the earth!" Why? What had the speaker said? This: "And he said to me: 'Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles' "that is, "He sent me   on a missionary assignment, a mission not implying cultural annexation." That did it.

It was plainly no mere coincidence that after missions in the New Testament sense of the word had gone into eclipse at the time when Christendom was launched. the erosion of Christendom coincided with the resurgence of missions. Modern missionary activity dates from the times when Christendom was forced to abandon the notion that Jesus Christ had come to establish a culture-religion. From William Carey on down, the great ones in the missionary enterprise were men, and women too, who had learned to think of Christianity as a culture- influencing religion rather than a culture-creating one.

There seems to be a connection also between the notion that Christianity is a culture-religion and a tendency toward racism. It is surely no coincidence that the grossest racists in the southeastern areas of the United States have been extremely religious folk, in the sense of being firmly committed to Christendom (whether firmly committed to the religion of Jesus Christ is another matter). No political party of the past century has been more outspokenly committed to a culture-religion than were the Nazis, and none has been as unashamedly racist. No population group has ever been more committed to the idea of a culture-religion than was the population group out of which Jesus came, and none was ever more racist. They were known for their slogan, "It is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation" (Acts 10:28). We know that Peter's racism was severely reprimanded during the vision on the housetop, but he was dull of hearing in the matter, for he, long after, was found to "draw back and separate himself' even though "before certain men came from James lie ate with Gentiles" (Galatians 2:11 ff.). Medieval Christendom was strongly racist; it taught explicitly that to enslave a "Saracen" was altogether permissible just so it was not one of the cultural enclave. What is this but an ancient form of the "Herrenvolk" delirium which does not become less delirious for being called "the white man's burden" or baasskap or "guardianship." Paul was an arch-racist and a tank segregationist until the Master divested him of the notion that Christianity is a culture-religion; then he chided, in public, a colleague, Peter, for talking out of both sides of his mouth, now as a person who ate with other ethnic groups and anon as one who did not.

The opposition the  early Church experienced, opposition that sent men into the catacombs if not to the lions, was not inspired by any resentment against Christian doctrine. It has often been represented that way (especially by advocates of Christendom), but erroneously. The early Church ran into trouble, not for its doctrine of the incarnation, not for its belief in the resurrection, not for the doctrine of the deity of Christ, not even for its teaching that all men are of and by themselves in the modality of lostness and need to be saved, and by grace rather than by merit. No, the opposition the earliest Christians encountered was inspired by cultural jealousy. Early Christianity was launched in a society with a culture-religion and, as we have pointed out, such a society is by definition intolerant. It was this rather than some unpalatable doctrine that inspired the persecutions.

After all, Jesus did not run into opposition because of the deep spiritual truths He uttered; He ran into opposition led by religious bigots who were addicted to a culture-religion. When they realized that Jesus was not minded to support them in this addiction, they conspired to put Him to death. Their argument before Pontius Pilate hinged on the assertion that Jesus was a threat to the cultural heritage.

It was no different with Paul. He too was resented because he had abandoned the culture-religion of the Jews. He had, said they, "brought Greeks into the temple." They began to bellow with rage when Paul reported that the voice of God had said, "Behold, I send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." The Jewish leaders of his day realized full well that if Paul were allowed to continue, then the religion of Jehovah would no longer be the private property of their cultural enclave (in this they were dead right) and for that reason they counted it their religious duty to liquidate Paul.

Much, if not most, of die hard going the Church of Christ encounters to this day is due to the fact that Christianity is looked upon as a culture-religion. Much of the present-day hardship suffered by the emissary for Christ is due to the fact that he is caught in a Kultar kampf, a struggle between two contending culture-religions.

If those who speak for Christ could convince themselves that the religion they follow is not a culture-creating one but a culture-influencing one, then the situation would alter itself at once. Does it speak for itself that one has to run for cover at once for announcing the Gospel? Is it a foregone conclusion that when we bind up the wounds of men, give sight to the blind, make their deaf to hear and their lame to walk, and cause their poor to hear the Gospel, so proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, that then forthwith men pick up stones wherewith to stone us? We think not.

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Editor:  Steve Van Nattan-  Balaam's Ass Speaks--  Leonard Verduin has stated a very urgent fact.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ was NOT delivered by the Apostles to cure social ills, to revolutionize political woes, or to establish democracy.  Nor did Paul interfere in Israeli political or social problems, as Falwell and Robertson are doing.  The Apostolic Gospel is addressed to sinners who need to repent and be converted.  How they live after that will be between them and the Holy Ghost within their culture.  The Spirit of God knows very well what is profane and must be rejected in any given society.

Our problem is, in the USA today and in much of the world, that Christendom has abandoned the Gospel and has turned, at best, to saving the culture and enforcing Old Testament law.  This is the message of the Reconstructionists and Jerry Falwell.  At worst, that part of Christendom known as the Charismatic movement and some others, have abandoned the Gospel AND culture, and they are offering only sensual entertainment and sensational feely feely religion.  This is a cut below Verduin's discussion, for he wrote this book in 1970.  Today, missions and the Gospel are a satellite blasting the world of people who have no TV to watch the show, while back in Kansas gullible idiot Christianettes weep for joy as the likes of Paul Crouch and Pat Rubberhead Robertson make grand claims of masses and masses of conversions in North Africa.

Not only is culture gone or sterile, Gospel is also gone.  Religion is now reduced to walking the labyrinth at the Episcopal Church or having a Holy Ghost orgasm at the front of the church in Brownsville.

Question:  How would a Holy God get the attention of such a people?

Answer:  Destroy their material and boogie woogie world with disaster.  History has left in its wake a long line of degenerate cultures who are now extinct or living a meager subsistence.  Witness the Inca, Aztecs, Sumer, the Hittites, and Egypt.  In our day, Spain is the classic.  It went from great glory in the 1600s to a very weak state today.  Also, look at England.  She has lost her empire, and today life there is very dull compared to the glorious days of the East India Company and Britannia.  Barely 1% of the English even attend place of worship.  Life goes on, but British products are not in demand in the world.  Her culture is symblolized by fish and chips, and her policy is to meddle in world finances to see if she can get back some form of feudal acre to call her own.

Thus:  Impending disaster is now bearing down on the USA.  It may be total economic collapse and default, terrorist gas and bio-attacks, martial law, revolution and the dissolution of the union of states, riots against the nations's bankers, tax and militia rebellion which will cripple the economy, or even natural disaster which would cause economic bankruptcy.  True Bible believers will suffer along with the masses of mental and social midgets as they get their just deserts.  Also, Bible believers may have one last opportunity to get back to proclaiming the glorious Gospel to poor lost sinners just before the end times events take place, most notably, the Rapture of the Lord's Church.  

Or will Christendom hold a world conference on mission?  The motto-- "Give the world a nickel, a pickle, and John 3:16 by the year 2000."  It will be carried on TBN and worldwide TV, and Bill Gothard will sell a big red book on how to do it.  Robert Schuler will have pickle juice squirting from his big four fountains in Garden Grove, CA.  Millions of people will be mailed a nickel and a pickle along with a John 3:16 glow-in-the-dark photo suitable for framing (available in NIV only).  Ken Gott of Blunderland Chapel will get a revelation and vision of huge green pickles floating up to heaven and back every Sunday as long as the offerings hold up.  Send to Rodney Howard Browne for your laughing pickle bumper sticker.  Please designate with or without garlic.  Tony Campolo and Bill Clinton will sponsor a drive to, "Seize the pickle."  Al Gore and Billy Graham will issue a joint statement that, "Pickles have feelings too you know."  The Pope will issue a Papal Bull "Taurus Fundiator" allowing priests to use Polish dill slices as Hosts in the Mass.

Sanctus, sanctus, in excellsis dillum.

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