Why the Culture Wars Cannot Possibly Be Over

Behind the “culture wars” lies a foundational biblical premise: that man’s creational calling is to steward the earth for God’s glory (Gen. 1:26–28). Man is God’s deputy in stewarding the entire created order to bring all glory to him. We denote this calling the “cultural mandate.” This means that God’s interests are larger than the church, and that, consequently, man’s calling is wider than the church. The church is God’s agency for propagating the Gospel and discipling the nations and edifying the saints and protecting and perpetuating orthodoxy (1 Tim. 3:15), but it’s not the kingdom of God, which is the reign of God in the earth.[1] The church is only one aspect (though a vital aspect) of that kingdom. Reducing man’s calling to the church is to surrender vast reaches of the world to satanic reign, the kingdom of Satan. This kingdom vies for the same territory as the kingdom of God. This is also why Jesus commanded his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). On earth, not just in the church or family.

If Jesus Christ isn’t Lord everywhere (Acv. 2:22–36), he soon won’t be Lord anywhere. To retreat into the church and erect a firewall against sinful culture with the hope that the church will thereby preserve its holiness won’t protect the church. Satan is rapacious, a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), the first and ultimate boundary-violator (Gen. 3). He will not leave the church in peace just as long as the church leaves the culture in peace. Sin and righteousness are mutually exclusive and fundamentally irreconcilable; each by its nature must root out the other. One will be servant and one will be master (Rom. 6:16). Sin won’t be satisfied with cultural hegemony; it wants to destroy everything godly and pure and holy, and that includes the church and the family and marriages.

This means that any strategy for opposing sin that limits that opposition to only one sphere of life is doomed to failure. Sin is too powerful to resist any opposition but full-fledged evisceration. God is in the sin-evisceration business, not the sin-marginalization business.

Churches that wish to preserve “traditional marriage” but refuse to stand against unsuccessful and unloving — and perverted — definitions of marriage in the culture will soon discover those depraved marriages beating down the church doors. This is as much as to say that cultural transformation by the power of the Gospel is essential to preserve the long-term health of the church, and that a strategy of church renewal alone as the means to cultural renewal is doomed to failure. The course of the church in 20th century Western culture hasn’t been the successful protection of its walls from increasing incursion by social depravity. All to the contrary: as the church abandoned its earlier Reformational paradigm of active cultural engagement,[2] it gradually accommodated itself to the increasing cultural depravity surrounding it. If Christians refuse to confront evils in the culture, we will soon confront them with a vengeance in the church.

And Jesus is not Lord only of the church; he’s Lord of all things. As Lord of all things, he’s progressively trampling down evil in his present, post-resurrection reign (1 Cor. 15:22–25), and even though the days are dark, and we don’t yet see all things subordinated to him (Heb. 2:8c–9), we join with our Lord in stewarding his earth for his glory. This stewardship doesn’t stop (or start) at the four walls of the church or family, and if we want to vanquish the present cultural evil, we had better steward widely indeed.

[1] Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962), 354.
[2] Doug Frank, Less Than Conquerors (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009).

2 thoughts on “Why the Culture Wars Cannot Possibly Be Over

  1. Having fully understood your fundamental premise, I offer one counter-premise. Stewardship at the outset of creation changed with the consequences that followed the course of history. I would imagine that the Christian in the catacomb had neither the inclination or luxury of studying stewardship. I read recently of Martyrs in Syria who endured the most horrific ordeal prior to being tortured and crucified at the hands of ISIS captors. I am beyond believing that politics or political processes can do little more than delay the consequences of gross lawlessness in our own land. Of course sin is a personal thing, a personal choice; but we would be foolish indeed to believe that it’s collective consequence isn’t exponentially worse than the sum of single cases. Ethics becomes whatever 51% believe is permissible and acceptable and emotionalism supplants spirituality. I Have wondered in the past about the Prophets–more specifically the way which God addressed Israel and Judah–through them. He addresses them as though they are individuals versus nations. Through allegory he shows them their state through his eyes. Individual sins are usually indicative of a deeper oversight. The Late Adrian Rogers once said “Adultery and Idolatry are twin sisters.” When a culture collectively redefines morality, impugns the writ of ethics, produces ridiculous statistics of illegitimate children, parades the ribald relationships of immensely popular entertainers on periodicals that people pay for, should we not conclude that such examples of open debauchery are indicators of the same deeper oversight? Paul’s first epistle to the Romans takes the reader down the stair-steps of cultural devolution, and most Christians usually focus on the parts of the passages dealing with homosexuality. If we look closely at verse 21 we find that this culture KNEW God. They knew him first and chose to redefine him and make wild suppositions regarding him. This may be a stretch, but I wonder if that society didn’t begin to regard other religions in political correctness giving equal omnipotence to them all. Those stair-steps are indicative that God has given them over (Abandonment wrath) to their strong willed stubbornness. The individual sins are warning lights. The judgement of God has begun on America as we clearly see in abandonment. The God of this world (Satan) is the mephisto conducting the anti-Christian sentiment heard around the world. The influence that the church and moral people used to have on the culture has been rendered worthless and at every opportunity his minions are seen stopping a prayer at a sports event, cutting short a comment on God by a College coach, the stoppage of Christmas events, the pulling down of religious icons, shredding our own constitution, and then running to positively promote things which God has said are reprehensible. The culture wars cannot possibly be over, but neither can they be won by defeating individual and successive battles along the stair-steps of ruin; They will be won by concentrating what the indicator lights are indicating–namely that we knew God once, but no longer wanted him. That kind of battle is only won by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that Gospel requires making people aware that they NEED a savior in the first place.

  2. Pingback: Scots and Theology–Aye | The Heavy Laden Bookshelf

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