Reforming Only the Family and Church Won’t Suffice

We live in transformational times for the Christian faith. The last vestiges of Christian culture are waning. Until recent decades, Christianity shaped the West. This doesn’t mean all or even most people were Christian; it means that the basic Christian gospel and ethic had historically rooted society’s institutions, and were recognized by most people (including unbelievers) to do this. At worst, the West was “vaguely Christian” in most people’s minds.[1] All that has changed. Today, Christian businesses are assaulted for simply acting on biblical, family truth, which had been practiced freely in the U. S. for over 240 years. Church attendance is declining. Millennials reared in the faith are leaving it by many thousands; they are more likely to be “Social Justice Warriors” than soldiers for Jesus Christ. Same-sex “marriage” is increasingly accepted among evangelicals. The social elites embrace and impose Cultural Marxism.[2] This is the ideology that adapts Marx’s classical ideas to the West. Armed revolution won’t work here, but the “long march through the institutions” will — and has: All hierarchies are evil. Individual autonomy, guaranteed by an iron-clad state, is the highest good. The courts must be used not to lay down impartial legal decisions but to secure the “just society,” as interpreted by “progressive” dogma. The previously marginalized in society (women, homosexuals, criminals, the poor, racial minorities, children, the disabled) must be exalted and championed, and the previously exalted must be humiliated and brought low: Christians, white males, fathers, the wealthy, and intact traditional families.

Amid this apostasy, unprecedented in the U. S., older, devout Christians are at a loss. The world is shifting under their feet. The 2016 election of Donald Trump was a welcome respite for them, not because his life and language have been exemplary, but because he represented a bulwark against this tide of politically correct unbelief. They still feel beleaguered. What is the remedy? Many are calling for revival and reform in the church and family. This idea is understandable. The church is Christ’s body in the earth. The church is the custodian of orthodoxy (right belief).

 

Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church.

 

The church monopolizes the sacraments or ordinances. The church holds the earthly keys to the kingdom — who is a Christian and who isn’t. There is no Christianity, no Christian culture, without the church. The family is similar, and even more foundational than the church. The family is a creational norm. It was around before the Fall. Had the Fall never happened, there would have been a family, though not a church or state, at least not as we know them in God’s redemptive order. To preserve the family is to preserve God’s basic unit of human society. To lose the family is to lose the human building block of God’s created order.

But society is much larger than these institutions, and therefore the apostasy of today’s world is much larger. Reforming only the family and church won’t suffice. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church. Family and church teach: “Put God first. Jesus is Lord. Obey the Bible. Trust God to provide. Sacrifice for others. Marriage is sacred. Sex is for marriage. Be careful of your words. There is a Final Judgment.” The surrounding culture teaches: “Put yourself first. You are lord. Obey your own impulses. You must make your own success happen. Your priorities are most important. Marriage is an informal, temporary arrangement. Sex is a malleable social construct. Say whatever you want whenever you want. You’ll never be required to give a final account for how you live on earth.” Of course, an anti-Christian worldview isn’t new. It’s been pervasive in other times and cultures. What is new in the West is that this secular worldview has consciously abandoned Christianity and Christian culture. In other words, what is historically unprecedented is a civilization that in sequence has consciously (1) embraced Christianity, (2) abandoned Christianity, and (3) embraced anti-Christianity. This is what is new: self-consciously anti-Christian culture. This is what devout Christians must contend with.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”It’s impossible for a virile Christianity to survive for long institutionally in such a hostile climate. Yes, devout individuals can. Noah, Moses, Daniel, the apostles, and the primitive Christians did. But since Christianity by its nature is a world-dominating faith, it suffers greatly when its cultural surroundings are not Christian. This is one chief reason that so many children reared in devout Christian families are drifting from Jesus Christ. The faith in which they were reared is an inherently cultural faith calculated by God himself to be reinforced in all of life. The radical disconnect between a God-loving family and church on the one hand and God-defying popular music and education and science and technology and art and architecture on the other creates spiritual schizophrenia.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”


[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1982), 5:423.
[2] Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

4 thoughts on “Reforming Only the Family and Church Won’t Suffice

  1. Perhaps we are seeing what was prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2.
    If so, what was holding back the secret power of lawlessness was the cultural effect of Holy Spirit working through His people.

  2. Perhaps we are seeing what was prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2.
    If so, lawlessness is upon us, having been held back until now by the cultural effect of Holy Spirit in God’s people. How, then, are kingdom people to adapt as Antichrist gains hegemony?

  3. Something funny about the ending – seems you repeated a paragraph but the conclusion is missing? I get the gist though. Good stuff.

    1. Perhaps the pull quote was too close to the end. The article did end abruptly. It was originally published as CCL’s printed bulletin, so space was a concern. Thank you for your comment.

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