Hope, Not Quarantine

Christian culture inspires great hope for the future. History is not an endless, repetitive cycle of rises and falls. It’s a God-governed odyssey moving from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation.[1] God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ is not static. Although it suffers from diabolical attack, and sometimes, it seems, is almost overthrown, it marches on to its destined victory (1 Cor. 15:20–28). Christian culture is optimistic culture, not because it has confidence in its own society, but because it has confidence in the God whom it loves and obeys.

The eschatology of a Christian culture is an eschatology of optimism.[2] Eschatology is one’s view of the future. Christians who embrace pessimistic eschatologies, who believe that culture is destined to get increasingly worse, are, in this way, at least, thinking more like pagans than Christians. Almost all civilizations at the time of Christ believed in a cyclical view of history: history is destined to go up and down and up and back down again.[3] A truly Christian eschatology sees God at work gradually redeeming all of culture by the power of his Spirit and in spite of fierce, frantic Satanic opposition.[4]

Secularization, a turning away from the Triune God and his word, has infected our culture with a deep spiritual disease. Jesus Christ and his way of doing culture is the only cure. Christian culture is the panacea for the diseases of everything from relativistic chaos, enslaving depravity, and postmodern despair.

A Seductive Illusion

An understandable and rational response to these pervasive secular (as well as pagan[5]) diseases 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”:[6] 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.

Only God gets to decide what’s normal.

[1] Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 28–36.

[2] J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971).

[3] John Baillie, The Belief in Progress (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1951), 43–51.

[4] For an example of how to interpret the Bible optimistically in this way, see Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954).

[5] Peter Jones, One or Two, Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, California: Main Entry, 2010).

[6] Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy (New York; Anchor, 1967, 1969), 12.


One thought on “Hope, Not Quarantine

  1. Marty says:

    “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.”
    I’m finding that as my children are coming of age there are some things I have to shake around a bit to see if they’re really important matters or if it is just a significant generational gap. Making sure that I am holding tight to the right things and standards, and expecting them to do the same, and not just the-way-we-have-always-done-it mentality are frequently intermixed.

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