February 27, 2017

February 7, 2013

“Influence wanes. Mockery and ridicule wax strong.”

An Anglican friend pointed me to a blog called Living Oracles, where I ran into a succinct piece on the current state of affairs:

Tough times lie ahead. The erosion of sympathy for Christians and the faith they hold guarantees this. A period of severe sifting appears about to begin. Other countries and cultures are ahead of us in feeling the flames of persecution. Competing faiths and societal attitudes are quickly turning against the folk who confess Christ and as opposition intensifies so the company of confessors will dwindle. An anti-Christian outbreak seems imminent. It may not be the last and final wave of attack but everywhere it seems that men are growing impatient with the rule of Christ and his faithful subjects. We are out of step with modern mores in morals, religion, politics, cultural tastes and amusements. We will be deemed to be intolerant and loveless critics of the current ways of the world. The peace and privileges we enjoy will be withdrawn. There are too many rapidly developing lobbies that would like to see us removed. Adherence to the Gospel is going to be costly.  There are times when God looks upon the earth and faith cannot be found and the love of the many has grown cold. Church and community both, have turned away. The current tide of opinion and events seems to be pointing to a widespread occurrence of faithlessness and recklessness in human behaviour and belief. God may stem the advance of evil and folly but a time of trial may be ahead.

That’s paragraph one.  There’s more, including some Biblical encouragement.

Lately, I find myself warning my congregation more and more about how we are on the outside looking in; how there will be fewer Christians and that the ones who hang around will find it costly; that the cultural religion of justification by works (opinions) means constant poking and probing with litmus test faith questions: “Do you support gay marriage?  Do you support gun control?  Dost thou believe in (fill in the cause)?”  Wrong answer = you’re a “bad person.”

Our churches are not havens.  They will need to suffer some significant pruning first and even then we are likely to wind up as Gardens of Gesthemane, places of painful passion as we seek God through dark nights.

Too many of our churches continue to make concessions to the culture, hoping that its pats on the head will suffice as a “spiritual experience.”

Too many of our churches are little clubs of untransformed culture Christians, busily fussing over this and that as they grow old together in happy fellowship, leaving a note for the last one out to turn off the lights.

And the ugliness of it all brought something to mind.

Janani Luwum, martyred Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, prayed for his tormentor and murderer, the Muslim dictator Idi Amin.  God seems to have answered Luwum’s prayer to an extent.  Amin was spared earthly justice, and when his regime collapsed he moved to Saudi Arabia, a place where he could live out his days in peace and comfort among other Muslims.

But that’s a place where the Gospel is not preached, except underground - a place where Amin almost certainly lived in the self-justification of his Islamic identity, never to accept the blood shed for remission of his sins (which were great).  So it is likely that he died in those sins, squandering the “grace period” afforded him by the prayer of his Christian victim, and faced final reckoning with only “Hey, I was a Muslim” as his useless plea. 

In a fallen culture, among monsters small and great, we still need to pray for them and show them kindness, that some might use the time of God’s patience to hear the Gospel and be saved.

Or not.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21 ESV)

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It is important to keep in mind, though, that ridicule and mockery are not the same as persecution.  However difficult it is to be the subject of widespread contempt, that’s not at all comparable to those who actively suffer, and often die, for their faith.

In fact, ridicule and mockery are a sign that reasoned arguments are despaired of or feared, and no one is so treated unless he is in fact a threat who must not be treated with respect.  Better to be mocked than patronized, patted on the head and told, “Thank you for your valuable contribution” and ignored.

I am a little puzzled by your gun control example.  I know this is a very conservative website, and that by a wide margin there is great opposition here to any further restrictions on gun ownership and sales.  But how exactly is this a matter directly implicating the Christian faith?  Marriage, for me, and for the Catholic Church, is a sacrament, as much as baptism and the eucharist.  Abortion, another of those highly contested, contempt-inducing issues, has also demonstrably been off the table in the Catholic Church since the first century.  How those issues are in any way comparable to competing policies to reduce gun violence (or the entirely secular issue of whether those proposed policies are in harmony with an overriding constitutional standard) is beyond me.

But, back to your main point, the whole issue ought not to come as any sort of surprise and revelation.  I have known Jesus’ words since I was a child:  “My kingdom is not of this world.”  That I should still be surprised or scandalized or disappointed by that fact has more to do with my failing to hear than the world not living up to what the world is normally be expected to be by those of us who live pretty comfortably in it.

[1] Posted by rick allen on 2-7-2013 at 09:05 AM · [top]

This piece coupled with the one earlier this week send a strong message that what is needed in the coming times is a sense of resolve and fervor, if not outright militancy, for the faith.  Not all of us are equipped to do that.  Many of my close associates get discouraged easily when controversy arises, using the excuse of “politics” that disrupt their own state of personal spiritual tranquility to avoid thinking about the consequences of what is happenning. 
To counter that I am developing arguments that shift the focus from politics to the issues of theology and ecclesiology. Theologically in the sense that what culture is presenting is inconsistent with the Nature of God. Ecclesiologicaly, what is the proper mission of the church?  To accomodate, make nice, or to witness to the Gospel of Redemption.
In other words the admonitions of this present piece and the call by Welgel to an evangleical catholocism are just the beginning of what I hope will be a Christian awakening that restores the fervor of our faith and ends the ever present sense tepidness in expression of our faith.
Thanks for these encouraging pieces.

[2] Posted by aacswfl1 on 2-7-2013 at 09:25 AM · [top]

Rick, I think the gun control issue came up because, while conservatives may have a variety of opinions on the subjects, liberals do not - if you are opposed to gun restrictions, you are obviously outside the pale of acceptable opinion, an uncivilized person who must be converted or held to be contemptible.

[3] Posted by AnglicanXn on 2-7-2013 at 09:29 AM · [top]

Thanks, AnglicanXn - that’s correct.  I wasn’t making a point pro/con gun control.  I was making a point about the litmus testing of an issue that turns into a form of justification by works.  But glad rick allen brought it up, so it was clarified.

Rick, I would agree that we are not into full fledged persecution, although some of that debris is starting to wash up on the shore.  We have cases here in which people can’t get a professional license or degree because of Christian faith and practice.  Where Christian organizations can’t have access to public facilities, or zoning codes are used to keep churches out of neighborhoods. 

aacswfl1 - I pray that you find some fruitful approaches.  The church, sadly, can be the best place to hide from theology.  But the Word must be preached - and while the awakening might not recapture the culture, it could recapture a church that becomes a pleasing witness to Christ in the midst of all the passing stuff.

[4] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-7-2013 at 10:13 AM · [top]

Persecution seperates the wheat from the chaff. 

For example, the heresy of the TEC has strengthened the faith of many, who come to realize they were hearing a watered-down gospel, one that does not reflect Gods’ truth. 

This may be expensive in $, in that the congregation may end up walking away from buildings and what-not, but for me and my family our FAITH IS NOT FOR SALE AT ANY PRICE.

[5] Posted by B. Hunter on 2-7-2013 at 11:38 AM · [top]

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