We cannot live within the fluid boundaries of legal relativism. There must be a definitive and final legal standard of appeal to justify moral decisions at the personal and governmental levels. But by whose standard and by what standard? If there is no transcendental moral standard, then the opinion of one judge is as good (or as bad) as the opinion of another.
The Ten Commandments, a summary statement of a broader body of revealed laws, have been that fixed summary standard in America since before its official founding. As Nightline host Ted Koppel stated the following in a 1987 commencement address at Duke University:
What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were. The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. Language evolves. Power shifts from one nation to another. Messages are transmitted with the speed of light. Man erases one frontier after another. And yet we and our behavior and the commandments governing that behavior remain the same. (Ted Koppel, The Last Word, Commencement Address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (May 10, 1987). Quoted in Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 164.)
One Christian website argues that since the Bible says “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1) that Christians have no biblical right to oppose abortion clinics and businesses that openly promote homosexuality. Why? Because the claim is made that we are in the dispensation of grace. Here’s how some in the anti-law crowd argue: “These pastors are trying to turn unsaved pagans into righteous heathen instead of presenting them with the gospel as Paul did.” (Kent R. and Marti B. Rieske, “Church Bondage,” Bible Life Ministries: http://www.biblelife.org/bondage.htm)
One has to wonder how such an argument would apply to slavery and gas ovens. What do we do in the meantime while we’re witnessing to the likes of a Hitler, a Stalin, and the people at Planned Parenthood and the politicians who support and fund them? If Christians serve politically, what standard do they apply to the civil sphere? Should Christians even participate politically? If they do, is it a violation of Romans 13 to oppose the funding of immoral and unconstitutional programs like abortion, homosexual marriage, the welfare state, wars, government education? Must we wait until all these legislators become Christians? William Wilberforce didn’t. Beginning in 1789, Wilberforce frequently introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade, and he repeatedly was voted down by a large margin. But he pressed on. In March of 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the slave trade in the British colonies with overwhelming support. Slavery itself was not abolished until 1833. A Christian worldview was operating at the time even if many of those who opposed slavery were not professing Christians.
The Bible tells us that civil rulers are ministers of God. The Greek word translated ‘ministers’ is the same word used to describe ministers in a church. There are civil ministers and church ministers. Both serve as God’s ministers within their jurisdictions. It is unbiblical to assume that civil rulers are autonomous, that they can legitimately rule independent of Gods limiting authority of them. It is a serious mistake to take Paul’s instructions in Romans 13 and claim that civil rulers cannot be challenged by the citizenry.
How did we get like this? There are numerous Christians who believe that a personal, private faith is all the gospel requires. Os Guinness described this belief as “The Private-Zoo Factor,” (Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 79.) a religion that is caged so that it loses its wildness. When true Christianity is applied to any part of the world, it blossoms far more fully and colorfully than we ever could have imagined. When pagans stopped believing that they lived in “an enchanted forest” and that “glens and groves, rocks and streams are alive with spirits, sprites, demons” and “nature teems with sun gods, river goddesses, [and] astral deities,” (Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 23–24.) at that moment their world and everything in it changed. Everything seemed possible within the boundaries of God’s providence and law. A Christian worldview made science possible and civil government ministerial rather than messianic. Stanley Jaki, the author of numerous books on the relationship between Christianity and science, comments:
Nothing irks the secular world so much as a hint, let alone a scholarly demonstration, that supernatural revelation, as registered in the Bible, is germane to science. Yet biblical revelation is not only germane to science—it made the only viable birth of science possible. That birth took place in a once-Christian West. (Stanley Jaki, “The Biblical Basis of Western Science,” Crisis 15:9 (October 1997): 17–20).
Over time, Christianity ceased to be a comprehensive, world-changing religion. “[W]here religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or ‘committed’ the individual may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit.” (Guinness, The Gravedigger File, 72.) Theodore Roszak used an apt phrase to describe much of modern-day Christendom: “Socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” (Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 449.) It wasn’t always this way:
The Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, comes out of the background of a Hebrew mindset. The basic idea behind the Hebrew mindset is that God and accompanying spiritual principles permeate all of life here on earth. … I believe one of the causes of [cultural disengagement is a Greek mindset], which tells us Christians should be concerned about saving souls and going to heaven rather than paying much attention to material things like transforming our societies.
[James Davidson] Hunter, to the contrary says, “Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world.” (C. Peter Wagner, Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2008), 40, 41.)
As long as Christianity remained nearly exclusively “privately engaging,” the secularists had no interest in disturbing the sleeping giant.
Culture 101 is a much-needed primer on how to live out the Christian worldview. Jesus said to ‘do business’ until He returns, and that means living and working in the world. Christians are sometimes given the idea that only ‘spiritual’ pursuits are worthy of the true Christian, but this is a misguided view. The truly spiritual Christian will have great impact in all areas of life, including business, entertainment, and art. The Christian life is one of thinking AND living to the glory of God. Using video, audio, and printed materials, Culture 101 gives a small glimpse into what Christian-influenced orthopraxy should look like.
American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Visit www.AmericanVision.org for more information, content and resources
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