our culture’s effect on our faith

Al Mohler is hitting on a very sensitive topic with this post. It is a more complete picture of the effect than the slice that I was looking at in my comments to this post. I said the following:

Number 2, there is a basic misunderstanding of the important responsibility of church membership in this country. In the U.S. we are so deeply ingrained in a culture of individualism, that we don’t really comprehend the passages in the Bible addressing the serious ramifications of joining a body of believers. In Hebrews 13:7 and 17 the writer makes it clear that placing yourself under the authority of elders is very serious. You have to find elders whose faith you can imitate and you have to obey them because they will give an account for you to God. Wow! Think about the awesome amount of responsibility that places on someone like Mark Driscoll who is responsible for and will give an account for more than 7600 persons. James 3:1 is also very serious for Mark, as is I Peter 5:1-6.
We are so used to our cultural congregational easy to join, easy to leave democratic church governance model that seeing a church trying to do it biblically seems extremely foreign.

Al Mohler, speaking more generally says the following:

Americans are not sure what to do with ideals of equality and fairness, but we are generally certain that equality and fairness are the right categories to employ, regardless of the idea or context.

People who think themselves autonomous will claim the right to define all meaning for themselves. Any truth claim they reject or resist is simply ruled out of bounds. We will make our own world of meaning and dare anyone to violate our autonomy.

The same research report indicates that a majority of American Christians pick and choose doctrines, more or less on the basis of those they like as opposed to those they dislike.

This certainly explains a great deal about the current shape of Christianity in American today. Specifically, it points to at least one fundamental reason that so many Christians — including a significant number who claim to be evangelical — no longer believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.

That reason: Eternal punishment in hell is not consistent with “the American experience” or “the American way.” The God of the Bible, in other words, does not act in ways consistent with what many people consider to be American ideals. Sending people to hell is just not fair.

The Bible never claims that God acts fairly, of course. Fairness is the best we mortals can often hope to achieve. We want our children to learn to play fairly and each child learns all too quickly to cry out, “No fair!”

But God does not claim to be fair. The God of the Bible is infinitely greater than we are. He is faithful, just, holy, merciful, gracious, and righteous. A morally perfect being does not operate at the level of mere and faulty human fairness, but at the level of his own omnipotent righteousness. We hope to make things fair. God makes things right.

We must work doubly hard to make sure that we place ourselves under the authority of the Bible. There will be an increasing number of times where choosing to teach without apology or hesitation what the Bible says will be at variance with what our culture says. Recognizing this conflict will change how we approach these topics, but we must continue to teach the truth in love with gentleness and respect.

hat tip to Ramblin’ Pastor Man.

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3 Responses

  1. I can’t agree with you more. The culture we live in has definitely turned God and His Word into a buffet. But I don’t think this is anything new. Paul speaks in Rom. 1 of men turning the image of an incorruptible God into an image of corruptible man. Typically people who have created their own version of God with little to no support from the Scriptures will respond to doctrines they don’t like with phrases like, “My god wouldn’t do that” or “The god I know is not that way…” They do not realize that what they think or feel God should be like is of no value or consequence upon who He really is as He has revealed through His Word!

    The issue of church membership with most opponents comes down to one of two things: 1) never having seen it done right 2) aversion to authority and/or accountability.

  2. Thanks Bryan. Good thoughts. Dr. Olson in the post below seems to be making his theology in the way you describe. https://bkingr.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/a-brilliant-example-of-contrast/

  3. “It’s a different picture of God than most conservative Christians grew up with, but it’s the only one (so far as I can tell) that relieves God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.”
    You are right. That is exactly what I’m talking about. Dr. Olson is going to pick the option that “relieves God”. I bet God feels a lot better since Dr. Olson has stepped in and cleaned up His mess (dripping in sarcasm). This is where I choose to stand on God’s revelation of Himself and trust that He can “relieve” Himself. Plus, it sounds extremely foolish to think that I can ever “bail” God out of a problem. I believe Dr. Olson is only steps from, if not already immersed in, open theism.
    I can’t help but think of Luke 13:1-9. Instead of trying to explain away God’s motives, the victims’ lives, etc., we should preach the message that is undoubtedly present for all–REPENT!

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