I’ve noted before that the culture we inhabit is collapsing around us, like a line of dominoes that, when the first one is pushed, all the rest fall in their turn. Now as a Christian I am not worried at all about the future. God’s plans can neither be altered or ruined by anything people do. Before time began God had everything worked out and His promises to His chosen people will be kept with 100% certainty. But it’s still worth our time to consider what is going on around us and get a feel for how we are to survive until Jesus comes again.
I recently re-read an article written by Dr. David Wells 20 years ago. Dr. Wells is a distinguished academic who teaches at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and has written quite extensively about religion and culture. In the article at hand he quoted a number of rather scary statistics about American attitudes–statistics which today would probably be even more concerning than they were then. I won’t spend time on them, but I do want to begin with a quote from this article that is both true and horrifying–“we [the West] have lost our ability to discern between, or even talk meaningfully about, Good and Evil.” If you don’t believe in moral absolutes (and two thirds of Americans say they do not) then nothing is either intrinsically right or wrong. In other words, whoever has the most guns gets to decide what is moral, and no one has the right to say otherwise unless they can amass more weapons. One way to think about the results of this amoral view of the world would be to ponder what it would mean about who was right or wrong in World War II. If two thirds of Americans were consistent in their thought they would have to say that the Nazis weren’t wrong, they were just different we can’t judge their moral standing.
Now of course very few people would say that out loud. It would not be politic to do so. But if what we have believed about marriage for thousands of years can be overwhelmed in just a decade, how long do we have to wait for the overcoming of our repugnance at the existence of death camps? A culture based wholly on the idea that people should be allowed to do whatever comes to mind is a culture that won’t last very long.
Dr. Wells argues that our inherited culture could be divided into 3 realms–law on one side; freedom on the other; and, occupying the middle what we could call truth and character. The Constitution of the United States deals with law and freedom, what we are not to do and what we are protected from. But critical to our culture has been the middle ground where such things as personal honesty, moral obligation, civic duty, social responsibility, and such other personal and civic traits. It is the place where what has been called “obedience to the unenforceable” takes place. Without a functioning middle law must, of necessity, take on a greater role in the culture. If people won’t act right on their own, they must be made to act right. But the problem is that we no longer have any sense of what is right or what is wrong.
This situation is fraught with difficulties for Christians. We have always been called to stand against the culture, to speak words of peace where there is war, love where there is hate, acceptance where there is bigotry. But as the middle ground grows smaller and the law and freedom larger, Christians will be more outside the cultural mainstream than ever before.
Now maybe this is a good thing. Maybe the Church needs the strength that comes from being constantly opposed. I don’t know. But I do know this, whether America follows Rome down the rabbit hole of history or not, whether this culture survives this century or not, our only hope is Jesus Christ. As things are trending today, our influence on the culture is declining. But a culture without an “obedience to the unenforceable” won’t last too long. The Kingdom of God, however, now that’s forever.