Understanding the culture; preaching the whole Gospel
by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream
I distinctly remember a talk I heard in my teens, early on in my Christian life, where faith in Jesus was presented as being the “cherry on the top” of a fulfilled life. We work hard to succeed, and we have fun; we enjoy sports and other activities, and we make friends. We live life in the world that is a ‘given’, among people for whom that is all life is – but the good news is that there is more. Add Jesus! He provides forgiveness of sins, power for living life God’s way, and the promise of eternal life!
Personal faith was already a reality to me by then, and I was grateful for the truths about Christ and the experience of his love that this speaker was urging us to take hold of. But I remember feeling that there was something inadequate about this presentation. Jesus cannot be reduced to a beneficial add-on to an already comfortable life. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, who calls into question what we as individuals have been building our lives upon, our idolatries and unthinking conformity to the world around us. Jesus is not just a “personal saviour” but the light of the world. We see in God’s word comfort and instruction for personal application, and also a powerful critique of a world built on human hubris. A teenager mapping out his or her career to fit in comfortably to a system and a worldview without questioning it, and then adding a personal faith and being part of the church as the icing on the cake – this does not correspond to the New Testament concept of metanoia (repentance).
It remains vital to grasp the biblical Gospel of the cross, the resurrection, the Lordship of Christ as a sound basis for experience of God through the Holy Spirit. But this will not in itself give us understanding of the world the Lord came to save and our calling to be in it yet not of it. When we agree with the bible’s teaching about humanity – the doctrine of male and female in the image of God, called to marry and procreate, the destructive sin of sexual immorality, and the need for personal transformation and holiness in the area of sexuality – then we become more clearly aware of the sickness of our social environment and its roots , and the radical nature of the Gospel healing that must be mediated through a suffering church.
A helpful guide to analyse and navigate our contemporary society is the humble and clear teaching of German sociologist Gabriele Kuby. Born into a nominal Protestant family at the end of the war, she grew up with her father a left-wing journalist and her country facing the trauma of rebuilding after the horrors of the Nazi nightmare. While many students in the late 1960’s saw radical socialism as the exciting basis of a new order, and chanted the neo-Marxist slogans against the capitalist bourgeois status quo, Kuby saw that the real experiment in Marxism was failing dismally on the other side of the Berlin wall. Disillusioned with the secular vision, she rediscovered confidence in God’s existence. While working as an interpreter and publisher she married and had a family; sadly the marriage ended in the 1990’s but God used this experience to lead her fully to Christ.
Embracing a Christian world view enabled her to see that the philosophies in which she had been steeped as a young person were based on rejection of God and especially rejection of his clear guidelines for right use of sexuality. Communist theorists, from Engels and Marx in the 19th century to Adorno, Reich, Marcuse, Foucauld and other philosophers of the 20th, all advocated the destruction of male/female distinctiveness, attacking the traditional family, and the total removal of sexual restraint. When it became clear that Marxist economics was not going to work, the energy of the revolution in the West, which became mainstream in the late 1960’s, was directed not at radicalizing the proletariat, but sexualizing the middle classes. The aim is to bring about more dependence on the State, with the familiar devastating effects that we see today: breakdown of marriage, ubiquitous promotion of sex outside of marriage and state redefinition of marriage, rampant pornography addiction, gender confusion.
Despite the obvious problems with all this, woe betide anyone who speaks out in favour of man-woman monogamous faithful marriage, or against abortion or compulsory immoral ‘sex education’ delivered by LGBT lobby groups through schools and media. Freedom of speech has been eroded in Orwellian fashion, and the church which should have resisted this movement has been split between an orthodoxy which rarely has the courage to challenge the lies of sexual liberation, and a liberal embracing of these lies in a grotesque misunderstanding of love.
Kuby was in London last week to address meetings of SPUC and Anglican Mainstream. She is publicly vilified by the metropolitan elites in Germany, but has also been an inspiration for emerging pro-family Christian-based continent-wide resistance to institutional political correctness. She has written a number of articles and books on the sexual revolution and speaks widely in Europe. Her latest book, The Global Sexual Revolution, traces the roots of our current crisis, and shows its ultimate end, the destruction of the dignity of the human person, and the collapse of the culture.
In the New Testament we see Jesus and the apostles preaching an alternative worldview to the religious hypocrisy and pagan idolatry around them. It was such an outrage to the cultures of their day that they were killed for it. The Gospel message was seen as foolishness, blasphemous, even treasonous, but it was the power of God (1 Cor 1:23-24). It led to the salvation of millions and the establishment of much that is good in our civilization that we take for granted.
In Western culture, Christian foundations, established by centuries of godly and often costly “salt and light” influence, are being rapidly eroded. In response, the missionary task of the church cannot simply be to call young people to meekly find a place in society and ‘add Jesus’. That will not be offensive, it will not create martyrs, but it will not change the world either. Rather, in the name of Christ the task is to identity and hold up the plumb line of God’s word to the new values of society, and form an alternative, but engaged, community that sets out and lives different values.