Only God Gets to Decide What’s Normal

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An understandable and rational Christian response to the pervasive secular (as well as pagan[1]) disease is to quarantine ourselves in our families and, at most, in our churches. The attitude is: even though our society may become more secular, we can become more Christian. A large number of ministries are committed to restoring the family and reviving the church. I support them, and I pray that they’re successful. However, if they neglect the cultural component … — and if they think they can sustain a robust Christianity over time in an evil culture — I believe this view to be not only theologically mistaken, but also dangerously delusional.

The church should indeed impact society, but society has a way of impacting the church. The sociologist Peter Berger popularized the idea of “plausibility structures”:[2] what counts as legitimate and illegitimate, real and unreal in a culture. When secularists create a comprehensive plausibility structure, it means that Christian truth is not so much persecuted, as it is simply meaningless. It doesn’t matter if the church stands up for biblical marriage if the wider culture defines marriage in a radically different way. Trying to restore biblical marriage would be akin to trying to restore the 18th century French monarchy. People wouldn’t fight you; they’d simply look at you as nutty. That’s why we cannot afford to fix just one thing: We cannot afford to fix the family and the church but not the culture. These institutions are all interrelated, and each affects — and infects — the other. What our children and grandchildren consider normal will be shaped not only by what they hear and see in family and church but also in the surrounding culture. Abandoning the culture to Satan and secularists is to allow them a hand in deciding what is normal for our children and grandchildren.

But only God gets to decide what’s normal.

[1] Peter Jones, One or Two, Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, California: Main Entry, 2010).
[2] Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy (New York; Anchor, 1967, 1969), 12.

From Why Christian Culture?

5 thoughts on “Only God Gets to Decide What’s Normal

  1. Many Bible verses can relate to familial relationships, but above and beyond that, our eternal “family” consists of those who do the will of God. In other words, our true brothers and sisters in Christ are more of a family than our immediate family.

    And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”(Mark 3:31-35 ESV)

  2. I continue to hear how we are supposed to fix and redeem the culture. I know, it’s sounds trendy to say that. But you have done nothing but pointed out the fact that the culture is out of our control. So what do you suggest we do? Really, can you actually give some coherent strategy that would actually change the culture?

    I guess you could say I’m extremely skeptical. We hear these cries all the time, but we are truly helpless to change our culture and I think the broader church is afraid to admit that.

  3. I’ve had a complaint for in my church for years. As I tell my wife, when I go to church, it is as if the past week, the atrocities, the abominations, the lies, never happened. I’ve entered a new world that has no relationship or overlap with the one I endured the other 162 hours of my week.

  4. Thank you Timothy for your post as this is a key comment today’s church not only needs to address, but needs to be the harbinger of solutions our society is desperately seeking. There are a number of cities in California, the USA and around the world (Salinas, Vallejo, Newark, NJ, Brantford, Canada, Paranaque, Philippines come to mind) where the Body of Christ is living out a simple principle from a very tough time in the history of Israel.

    As you know, Jerusalem was laid to waste and Judah captured by the Babylonians between 597 and 582 BC. Thousands were murdered, families torn apart and the remainder forced to march near 1000 miles to a foreign country. Yet God gives a simple instruction through the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 29, a very familiar text of Scripture, especially verse 7, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in (the city’s) welfare, you will have peace.”

    In today’s world, when we stop thinking we can roll up our sleeves and fix everything (even if we want to) and begin to seek the welfare of the community where the Lord has sent us, amazing things can happen. In Salinas for example, the faith community works with the government, education, health department, social services and such in collaborating, partnering if you will, to bring solutions to the issues this city faces. Churches have created serve days (As have many other city’s faith communities) where 1 to 30 congregations descend upon the city doing 10 to 30 projects of rehabilitation/cleanup that could be a government building or park, a public school, senior’s centers/homes, rescue missions, non-profit facilities, etc. There is an organization, the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace (CASP) that brings together all the department heads of the County of Monterey, the City of Salinas, non-profit service providers and the faith community to deal with issues the community faces, primarily the youth in public safety, education, homelessness, jobs etc. There are nearly 70 groups aligned to focus on families from pre-natal to 25 year olds and beyond where the faith community is considered and defended as a full partner. Within CASP, this city has moved beyond a policing model of suppression (You cannot suppress your way to peace) to a model “PIER”, prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry (In essence, neighborhood policing in concert with the community and the incarceration institutions). Since 2007 there has been a steady decline of violent and aggressive assaults. While not perfect, the County of Monterey and the City of Salinas recognize the value of the faith community. One key event bringing the clergy and laity together is The Mayor’s Breakfast for the Faith Community, where congregations come together to be challenged to draw together; this year (Their 10th annual) the focus was upon youth and mental health.

    What it takes Timothy is being in the place to hear from The Lord, then be committed week by week, month by month, year by year to His Instructions…you will be blown away by how much He loves your city!

    We believe that we are to give grace and honor and allow Holy Spirit to build the Church and get the Glory. It’s the difference between “pushing the boulder uphill” and going nowhere (Your astute comment Timothy) and watching the Blessings of the Lord flow out (The first century model we believe The Lord is instituting all around the globe).

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