Full Text for An Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Text)

Volume 65:3 July 2001 Table of Contents Agreement and Disagreement on Justification by Faith Alone ............................. Gottfried Martens 195 Successful or Justified? The North American Doctrine of Salvation by Works ............................... Robert A. Kelly 224 The Lutheran Confessions: Luther's Role Eugene F. A. Klug ............................. 246 An Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On Anthony Steinbronn ........................... 255 ...................................... Book Reviews 281 Perspectives on Religion and American Culture. Edited by Peter W. Williams. ..... Lawrence R. Rast Jr. Lutheran Catechesis - Catechumen Edition: A Guide to Catechesis for the Lutheran Catechumen and Family. By Peter C. Bender ....... John T. Pless The Sacred Gift of Life: Orthodox Christianity and Bioethics. By John Breck. . . . . . . . . John T. Pless Micah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Francis I. Anderson and David Noel Freedman . . . . . . . . Andrew E. Steinmann Books Received . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286 An Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On Anthony J. Steinbronn Jerry Lee Lewis, through the use of a dance metaphor in his hit song Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, provided the North American culture with a keen insight into the emerging revolution of the 1960s. Or, as Ken Myers maintains, "hell had been waiting in the wings for over a century; it finally broke loose in the 1960s."' Pierre Babin documents the "shaking" influence of the audiovisual age in which nothing is solid anymore and the old formulas are breaking? The result of this constant and relentless shaking and questioning upon the receptor is fragmentation3 and disorientation, along with the loss of all moral4 and epistemic bearings5 'KemethMyers,All God's Children and Blue Suedeshoes (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1989), 118. 'John Stott, Between Two Worlds (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 71-73. John Stott supports Babin's contention that the electronic age causes a destructuring process to occur by which people are made intellectually uncritical, emotionally insensitive, psychologically confused, and morally disordered. 3Pierre Babin, A Nm Era In Religious Communication (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 42: "We crumble into fragments because everything we see on television, everything we hear on the radio, and everything we read in magazines come to us piece by piece, without any logical connections." "abin, A New Era, 43-44: "So we hear, read, and see countless things that mean nothing to us, either at the level of usefulness or at the spiritual level. We are crazy about excitement and sensation. What, then, can become of us after a few years of this experience? We will think that it is normal. And what can a child think, spending life watching television? Surely that there are no more rules, that what is exciting is life itself, and that in such a life everything is possible and everything is permitted." 'Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1985), 1:6. According to Francis Schaeffer there has been, since the period of 1913 to 1940, a major shift in our way of approaching truth and knowing. Before that period of time, it was still possible to discuss what was right and wrong, what was true and false because everyone would have been working with the same presuppositions in the areas of epistemology and methodology concerning absolutes. TheRev. Anthony Steinbronn is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Dimock, South Dakota. In the days of a more Christian culture, a lone individual with the Bible could judge and warn society, regardless of the majority vote, because there was an absolute by which to judge. There was an absolute for both morals and law. But to the extent that the Christian consensus is gone, this absolute is gone as social force.6 If Babin and Schaeffer are correct in their observations, what is the origin and substance of this new way of thinking and acting? What are the consequences of this "shaking" upon modern Western culture? What missiological strategies should be employed in order to do His work in this modern and postmodern age? To understand properly modern Western culture, there are three main approaches that have been advocated: (1) the history of ideas; (2) cultural anthropology, which interprets thought in the setting of human cultures and customs; and (3) the sociology of knowledge, which interprets the impact of everyday experience on all that passes for kn~wledge.~ The History of Ideas Origins of the modern western worldview In the Western world, up to the end of the seventeenth century, the theistic worldview was clearly dominant. All Christians would have subscribed to the same set of presuppositions: "The Triune personal God of the Bible existed; He had revealed Himself to us and could be known; the universe was His creation; human beings were His special creation.'@ Moreover, Christianity had so penetrated the Western world that, whether people believed in Christ or acted as Christians do, they all lived in a context of ideas influenced and informed by the Christian faith? Furthermore, biblical doctrine was preached not as a truth, but as the truth. These truth-claims formed not only the religious base of society but the cultural, legal, and governmental bases as well. A major turning point in the history of the Western consciousness was experienced in a single generation between 1680 and 1715. In this period, 6Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985), 5:223. 70s Guinness, The Gravedigger Files (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983)) 38. 'James Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 23. 'Sire, Universe, 24. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 257 for the first time in the history of Christian Europe, a sizable number of sensitive and educated people repudiated Christianity as having any unique and superior truth and took their stand on other ground. What happened in the Enlightenment was that transcendentally free man achieved, at least in his own self-consciousness, an emancipation from the transcendent ~0d.l' From an intellectual point of view, the modern world began with the Enlightenment, with that project aiming to account for the whole life strictly from within the bounds of natural reason." The modern world cast itself loose from all external authorities and saw in this double action-its rejection of authority and its location of the human interpreter in the center of reality- the ground of all human freedom.'' Richard Tarnas postulates that the new psychological constitution of the modern character had been developing since the high Middle Ages, had conspicuously emerged in the Renaissance, was sharply clarified and empowered by the Scientific Revolution, then extended and solidified in the course of the Enlightenment. By the nineteenth century, it had achieved mature form.13 In our time, humanism has replaced Christianity as the consensus of the West. The dominant ideas of our culture are derived from secular humanism and provide the modern man's view of himself and of the world. "Willis Glover, Biblical Origins of Modem Secular Culture (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1984), 10,12. I1Modern Western culture began with the Renaissance. The Renaissance period was marked by a strong humanist tradition based upon classical Greek and Roman elements of ancient antiquity. The Enlightenment represented the outgrowth of the fourteenth- through sixteenth-century Renaissance humanism and was a movement in the intellectual history of Western man in which traditional perspectives and loyalties were abandoned in favor of man-centered alternatives. I2David Wells, No Place for Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 60. '%chard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Harmony Books, 1991), 319. Also, "The direction and quality of that character reflected a gradual but finally radical shift of psychological allegiance from God to man, from dependence to independence, from otherworldliness to this world, from the transcendent to the empirical, from myth and belief to reason and fact, from universals to particulars, from a supernaturally determined static cosmos to a naturally determined evolving cosmos, and from a fallen humanity to an advancing one." Humanism Humanism is the system whereby man, beginning absolutely by himself, tries rationally to build out from himself (having only man as his integration point) to find all knowledge, meaning, and valueJ4 In an essay on "What is Humanism," Paul Kurtz identifies three basic humanistic principles that provide the core assumptions of humanism: naturalism, anthropocentrism, and scientismJ5 The first principle of humanism is the rejection of the supernaturalist worldview that sees God as the ultimate source of all existence and value. In its place, humanism reduces everything to a single, physical plane in which only matter exists. The second principle of humanism is the view that value is relative to man and to what human beings find to be worthwhile in experience. Theism's transcendent source for values is rejected, with man alone as the measure of all thingsJ6 The third principle of humanism is the view that scientific knowledge can be applied to the solution of all problems as well as the testing of all human beliefs and moral judgment.17 The key feature of this new science was the combination of mathematical and experimental observation" Cultural Anthropology Transcendence has been reduced to a rumor Scientists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries continued to use the word "God," but pushed God increasingly to the edges of their explanatory systems. Finally, scientists in this stream of thought moved 14Wells, No Place for Truth, 85. The Enlightenment revolution also unleashed and created the proud, erect creator who would remake all of life in his or her own image. I5Francis A. Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaefler (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985), 5:282. "By humanistic base we mean the fundamental idea that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all matters." 16 Reuben Abel, in Man is the Measure, traces the origin of modern anthropocentric thought to an assertion by Protagoras that man is the measure of all things: of those that are, that they are; and of those that are not, that they are not. 17Arthur Frank Holmes, Contours of a World View (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 18. ''Jeffery Hopper, Understanding Modern Theology I (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987),17. The basic factors involved in this new scientific inquiry were observation, imaginative hypotheses, experimentation, and mathematical description. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 259 to the idea of a completely closed system that left no place for God. Thus the reigning plausibility structure advocated that there was no way that God could enter and act in this closed system.'9 Carl Henry, in Toward a Recovery of a Christian Belief, laments the meteoric rise of secular humanism and deconstructionistic thought in the twentieth century when he notes that "humanity's coming of age requires rejecting all transcendentally fixed and final authority."'' According to Henry, every last vestige of transcendence is being removed and replaced by a new mentality in which the notion of a living God is viewed as a primitive illusion. The tide has now shifted to a form of naked paganism in which any emphasis on an objectively existing deity is expunged from Western thought. In the Modern worldview, man is autonomous. Nothing is to be judged in relation to an absolute or a revelation or a transcendent reality. In theory, nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond the reach of questioning and remaking.'' As a result, the individual believes himself to be the measure of both reality and moral principle - there are no standards, there is no objective measure of right and wrong, and norms are delusion^.^' According to sociologist Peter Berger, we live in a world without windows. By this phrase, Berger means that both social institutions and individual lives are increasingly explained, as well as justified, in terms devoid of transcendent referent~.~"hus, the reality of ordinary life is increasingly understood as the only reality - a reality without purpose or meaning. In answer to how popular culture influences Americans in general and Christians in particular, Ken Myers sees popular culture as a "culture of diversion," preventing people from asking questions about their origin, destiny, and about the meaning of life.24 In his study, two aspects stand '9Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 69. "Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recove y of Christian Belief (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 23. "Myers, All God's Clddren, 71. 22Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 167. "Peter Berger, Against the World For the World (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), 10. 24Myers, All God's Children, 56. "One of the novelties of our present situation is the fact that such a large proportion of the population can spend such a large proportion out- a quest for novelty and a desire for instant gratification.25 In other words, the orientation of the modern individual is toward thenew, now.26 The critical spirit The thinkers of the Enlightenment spoke of their age as the age of ~ I reason. Irnrnanuel Kant, in answer to the question of what Enlightenment I was, used the famous phrase "dare to know,"27 defining the central thrust of our culture.28 As a result of autonomous man's daring to know, the Enlightenment resulted in man's emergence from his self-imposed non-age and required nothing but the freedom to make public use of one's reason inall matters. Thus, no alleged divine revelation, no tradition, and no dogma, however hallowed, has the right to veto its e~ercise.'~ I We live in a society not controlled by accepted dogma but by the critical ( spirit. The mark of intellectual maturity and competence is to subject I every alleged truth to the critical scrutiny of reason. Consequently, we ! now live in an age of systematic skepticism in which every supposed I truth must be critically examined afresh and the old traditions and 1 of its time seeking diversion." I "Myers, All God's Children, 64. "The quest for novelty is not simply a search for new distractions; it involves the notion that a new thing will be better than the old one." , 66: "[C. S. Lewis] goes on to say that this unconscious conviction that the new is / therefore better is the greatest difference between modern men and women and their / pre-modern ancestors." I 26Myers, All God's Children, 65. "Indeed, society has done more than passively r accept innovation; it has provided a market which eagerly gobbles up the new, because it believes it to be superior in value to all older forms. Thus, our culture has an unprecedented mission: it is an official, ceaseless search for a new sensibility." Myers, 67: "Not only did modernity impart to popular culture a preoccupation with the new, it also created a taste for the new now." Again (114): One attribute of 1 modernism is the eclipse ofdistance and the promise that everything is offered to us ) immediately. Moreover, "nothing worthwhile is beyond your reach right now. Any I experience, sensation, idea or fantasy can be yours if you have enough money, confidence or sex appeal. There is no distance between you and any good thing." 1 27Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 25. "'Dare to know' implies that the individual has the potential and therefore also the right freely to exercise his reason in the search of reality." I "Newbigin, The Gospel, 39. 1 '%arold Lindsell, The New Paganism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 250. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 261 dogmas must be exposed to the acids of critical doubt with only what survives being retained. The rest can be thrown away. That is the only safe path from the darkness of superstition, dogma, and tradition to the clear light of truth? Thus this new method of inquiry and reflection has become, for the educated man of today, the final arbiter of all questions of fact, existence, and intellectual assent. It is the revolutionary call for men to throw off the chains of a brutish existence and to dare to think.31 It required nothing less than a transformation of the intellectual idea that had possessed the heart of Christendom for centuries, the ideal of belief. Kant celebrated the will-to-truth more than the will-to-believe, investigation more than certainty, and autonomy more than obedience to a~thority.~' Pluralism as the reigning plausibility structure The distinctive feature of this culture is that there is no generally acknowledged plausibility structure that is accepted as normative.33 Modern man's viewpoint in the post-Christian world is without any categories, and without any base upon which to b~ild.3~ It is the view that we have diversity here in this world but we have no access to ultimate unity and no way to bring the diverse things of our experience into a coherent whole. We have particulars but no universals; relatives but no abs0lutes.3~ Furthermore, in a pluralist society, any confident statement of ultimate belief, any claim to announce the truth about God and His purpose for the world, is liable to be dismissed as ignorant, arrogant, or dogmatic.36 According to Peter Berger, pluralism greatly affects the situation of religion because where worldviews coexist and compete as plausible alternatives to each other, the credibility of all is undermined. Each of us, 30Newbigin, The Gospel, 28. 31Van A. Harvey, The Historian & the Believer (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966), 39. 32Harvey, The Historian, 39. 33Newbigin, Foolishness, 53. A plausibility structure is a "structure of assumptions and practices which determine what beliefs are plausible and what are not." 34Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death ofMan, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985), 5:6. 35R. C. Sproul, Lifeviews (Pasadena: Revell, 1986), 114. 36Newbigin, The Gospel, 10. bombarded by these reality-defining possibilities, is tempted to create his own syncretistic worldviews, picking and choosing the combination that meets his needs. Man lives in an audiovisual age Pierre Babin observes that there is a new, all-encompassing culture that has entered the modern world, namely, the audiovisual medium. Moreover, Babin believes that the audiovisual medium is the key to interpreting our contemporary culture, in which the message is not in the words but in the effect produced by the one who is speaking, with modulation being the essence of the audiovisual language.37 In Babin's analysis, E stands for electricity and everything that flows from electricity. One major consequence of electricity is that the human being is taken into a vast network that "causes a change in habits, life- style and moral behavior and is the main formal cause of moral ~hange.''~ Notice, observes Babin, how everything has been thrown into disorder by the E civilization. Everything is said and done in the new generation. From now on, everything is in the eye of the spectator with no objective criteria to judge.39 Man lives in a world governed by sociological law If there is no absolute standard, then one cannot say, in a final sense, that anything is right and wrong. Everything is "how you look at it" and we live with situational ethics in which every situation is judged subje~tively.~~ Consequently, for many North Americans, moral character and existence are defined by preferences. In the absence of any objectifiable criteria of right and wrong, the self and its feelings become our only moral guide.41 37Babin, A New Era, 5-6. 38Babin, A New Era, 41. 39Babin, A New Era, 47. 40Francis Schaeffer, No Little People, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985), 3:55. 41Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 79-80. "Values" turn out to be the incomprehensible, rationally indefensible thing that the individual chooses when he or she has thrown off the last vestige of external influence and reached pure, contentless freedom. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 263 When a Christian consensus existed, it gave a base for law. Today law is only what most of the people think at that moment of history and there is no higher law. In such a moral climate, modern man has no real boundary condition for what he should do; he is left only with what he can do. Thus, the moral "oughts" are only what is sociologically acceptable at the moment.42 According to Francis Schaeffer, as the Christian consensus dies, few alternatives remain: (1) hedonism, in which every person does his own thing; (2) fifty-one percent vote, whereby law and morals become a matter of averages; and (3) the elite, consisting of academic and scientific intellectuals and government bureaucrats, who determine and give authoritative absolute^."^ The Sociology of Knowledge Three key pressures Since our intellectual world has died, modern life is being defined more and more by its social processes and cultural environment and less by any ideology.44 The human spirit is now being moved not by profound thinking but by the experience of living. The rise of modernization has brought three key pressures to bear on the social location of religion: secularizationP5 privatization:6 and 4%haeffer, How Should? 237. 43Schaeffer, How Should? 225. 44Wells, No Place for Truth, 287. 45 Guinness, Gravedigger Files, 61. Secularization is the process by which the social and cultural significance of religion in the central sectors of modern society, such as the worlds of science, technology, bureaucracy, and so on, are displaced making religious ideas less meaningful and religious institutions more marginal. As more and more areas of life are classified, calculated and controlled by the use of reason, the systematic application of reason as the best tool for mastering reality is affirmed and strengthened. Bryan Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective (Oxford: Oxford, 1982), 176. As a result, "religious perceptions and goals, religiously-induced sensitivities, religiously-inspired morality, and religious socialization appear to be of no immediate relevance to the operation of the modern social system." 46Privatization is the process by which modernization produces a cleavage between the public world and the private spheres of life and focuses the private sphere as the special arena for the expansion of individual freedom and fulfillment. pluralizati0n.4~ Due to these social forces operative in the West, "sector / after sector has been successfully freed from the influence of the Christian 1 faith so that Christian institutions and ideas are displaced from the center ) of modern society and relegated to the margins."48 The world has come of age Bonhoeffer's "the world has come of age" is one in which the "religious hypothesis" is no longer needed by man-he can get along very well without it. Bonhoeffer observed that, as people have to use "god as an explanation less and less and have to call on "god" for help less and less, this "god is being edged out of the world," to the periphery of people's conscious ~orld.4~ This displacement of the "religious hypothesis'' is promoted through, what Lesslie Newbigin calls, the bilingual nature of public education. For most of our early lives, through the accepted systems of public education, we have been trained to use a language which claims to make sense of the i world without the hypothesis of God. For an hour or two a week we use the other language, the language of ' the Bible. We use the mother tongue of the church each Sunday, but for the rest of our lives we use the language imposed by the occupying power.50 In Twilight of a Great ~ivilization,5~ Carl Henry pronounces a warning that the barbarians are coming and that they threaten to undermine the I foundations of Western civilization. It is this new barbarianism, grown I out of a humanistic rejection of God, and the Judeo-Christian foundation I of Western culture that has caused our culture to embrace a new 47Berger, Against the World, 11. Pluralization is the process by which the number of options in the private sphere of modern society rapidly multiplies at all levels, especially at the levels of worldviews, faiths and ideologies. In the words of Peter Berger, "modernity produces an awful lot of noise which makes it difficult to listen for the gods." 48Guinness, Gravedigger Files, 60. 49Hopper, Understanding Modern Theology, 28. As more and more was understood by science, the credibility of notions of a causally intervening God has been more and more reduced. "Lesslie Newbigin, Truth to Tell (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 49. "Carl F. H. Henry, Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Dr$t Toward Neo-paganism (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1988). Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 265 mentality: no fixed truth, no final good, no ultimate meaning and purpose, and God is an illusion. Due to the cultural, scientific, and philosophical revolutions of the past three centuries, we have a significantly reinterpreted Western worldview which has caused a great "shaking" to take place. It appears that the observations of Babin and Schaeffer are valid, namely, everything is being questioned and the old formulas that, in the past, have defined our and epistemic boundaries53 are breaking away, thereby allowing a new Zeitgeist and Weltanschauung to take its place. All of this gives us today an almost monolithic consensus, an almost unified voice shouting at us a fragmented concept of the universe and of life. And as it comes to us from every side and with many voices, it is difficult not to be infiltrated by it.54 Ours is a post-Christian world in which Christianity, not only in the number of Christians but in cultural emphasis and cultural result, is no longer the consensus or ethos of our society. It is a kind of worldly wisdom that leaves God and His revelation out of the picture and thereby ends up with a completely distorted conception of reality.55 Bent on the pursuit of autonomous freedom-freedom from any restraint, and especially from God's truth and moral absolutes - our culture has set itself on the course of self-destruction? As a consequence, 52 Babin, A New Era, 46: "How are we to remain steady in a world that has lost its traditional points of reference? How are we to cling to what is true and good in a world swept away by the winds of every idea and every passion?" 53Eugene A. Nida, Religion Across Cultures (Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1968), 52-53: "Without God, and the supernatural sanctions whichcame from God, where is man to find those superhuman categories which will justify his social structure and tell him where he has come from and where he is going? If God has been eliminated, how can man any longer validate his existence and ways of life?" 54Schaeffer, How Should? 195. "Modem pessimism and modern fragmentation have spread in three different ways to people of our culture and to people across the world. Geographically, it spread from the European mainland to England, after a time jumping the Atlantic to the United States. Culturally, it spread in the various disciplines from philosophy, to art, to music, to general culture, and to theology. Socially, it spread from the intellectuals to the educated and then through the mass media to everyone." One may also see 204. 55Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, in The Complete Works ofFrancis A. Schaefler (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985), 4:313-314. 56Schaeffer, Evangelical Disaster, 315-316. all morality becomes relative, law becomes arbitrary, and society moves toward disintegration. The world spirit of our age rolls on and on claiming to be autonomous and crushing all that we cherish in its path.57 Seventy years ago could we have imagined that unbornchildren would be killed by the millions here in our country? Or that we would have no freedom of speech when it comes to speaking of God and biblical truth in our public schools? Or that every form of sexual perversion would be promoted by the entertainment media? Or that marriage, raising children, and family life would be objects of attack?' We are engaged in a conflict which takes two forms. The first of these has to do with the way we think - the ideas we have and the way we view the world. The second has to do with the way we live and act. Both of these conflicts -in the area of ideas and in the area of actions - are important, and in both areas Bible-believing Christians find themselves locked in battle with the surrounding culture of our day.59 For many, modern man lives in a world in which everything is decreated-everything is autonomo~s.~~ How do we speak to an age made spiritually deaf by its skepticism and morally color blind by its relati~ism?~' In the estimation of Lesslie Newbigin, there is no higher priority for the research work of missiologists than to ask: What would be involved in a genuinely missionary encounter between God's word and this modern Western culture?'j2 Biblical insights toward worldview understanding King Solomon observed that "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Based upon Solomon's judgment, it should be possible for us to examine the Scriptures and find biblical examples that illustrate the modern and postmodern condition. s7Schaeffer, Evangelical Disaster, 309-310: "Here we have world spirit of the age - autonomous man setting himself up as God, in defiance of the knowledge and the moral and spiritual truth which God has given. Here is the reason why we have a moral breakdown in every area of life." s8Schaeffer, Evangelical Disaster, 310. s9Schaeffer, Evangelical Disaster, 312. 60Schaeffer, Pollution, 32. 61Guinness, Gravedigger Files, 235. b2Newbigin, Foolishness, 3. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 267 Thefirst humanists-There is the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 whereby Eve sought to displace God and His revelation, and make judgments autonomous from God. As the first humanists Eve, and then Adam, believed that they could stand alongside God as an independent power; instead, they were no longer ridden by God but by the evil one. The generation of Noah and a distant, spectator God - There is the condition of humankind before the flood in which every imagination of man's heart was evil continually. Instead of clinging to God's word as proclaimed through the building and preaching ministry of Noah (Genesis 6; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5), humankind was living out a this-worldly orientation and advocating a naturalistic, closed-system view of the universe. There is no way, the ancients assured themselves, that God could intervene and send a flood as Noah had proclaimed. Moreover, God is not near, His judgments are not a controlling factor in history, and He is but a mere spectator to the affairs of everyday life. Humankind's self-glorification at Babel - There is the post-flood generation of Genesis 11 in which humankind, collectively, rejects the Missio Dei of filling the world with His Name and living a life which brings glory to Him. Instead, the people of that time used their unity in language to engage in the worship of autonomous self and the construction of a society based upon humankind's unregenerate will and design. What is truth? -There is Pilate's questioning of Jesus and his skepticism regarding the possibility of knowing truth. As a result, he rejects Jesus' interpretation of truth and history, namely, that Christ is truth itself and the meaning of history. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes-There is the condition of Israel at the time of the Judges in which, morally, every person did what was right in his own eyes. Apparently man lived for the moment, constructing his own values devoid of transcendent, moral referents. Ancient worldliness-There is the time of Moses, as he spoke his final words to the people of Israel before his death, when he warned them of the dangers concerning prosperity and worldliness. As the people of God are blessed, they will be tempted to follow after the foreign gods among them and forget the Lord in their thinking and in their behaviors. They may keep the form of religion, but the normative authority of God's word would be replaced with the pagan allegiances, beliefs, and practices of the nations that came into contact with Israel. To counter this displacement 1 of the Christian faith from the lives of God's people, Moses encouraged the people with the words of Deuteronomy 6. A marginalized faith -Finally, there is the powerful story of God's people during the time of Hosea and Micah. They frequented the house of God but they had marginalized the faith in their lives. God came to them and 1 called them to repentance with these words: I , For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather I than burnt offerings. He has showed you, 0 man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Hosea 6:6, Micah 623). I I In other words, the Christian life is to be lived out in a comprehensive / manner since all of life is lived out corm Deo and coranz honzinibus; that is, ' God wants our faith and our neighbor needs our justice, our love, and / acts of mercy. i Biblical insights toward worldview change i The Christian home as the center of discipleship formation I The most important place for instilling a biblical view of reality and of I life is the Christian family where a biblical worldview and meaning system is communicated through the teaching office of the parents and through the loving, forgiving socialization of the faith that takes place in I the Christian home (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). I It remains part of God's design that the Christian home be the place where the family members learn and acquire a biblical worldview as they hear God's revealed truth about ultimate and external reality, about the nature and orientation of man, about truth and ethics, about the comprehensive nature of the Christian faith, and about the proper interpretation of history. The centrality of the Christian community within society The early colonial church was located at the town's center. According to David Wells, one of the first things the Puritans had done when building a new town was to establish the church building in a position of prominence, at the center of the community. In doing so, they saw the town's church as both the place where God addresses His people through the preached word and as the knot that bound society together, the hub Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 269 into which all of life's spokes were fixed. It was their hope and intention that the Christian faith permeated all of the town's lifeP3 It is Loren Mead's conviction that religious congregations are the most important carriers of meaning, purpose, direction, and human community that we have, with one exception - the nuclear and extended family. Throughout history, congregations have been an anchor, a place of stability, holding up a transcendent vision of the meaning of life. Government as an agent of order in a world of chaos One of the core elements of the modern and postmodern worldview is the postulate of human autonomy and a rage against order. For the committed modernist, the crucial insistence is that experience is to have no boundaries to its cravings - that there is nothing sacred. However, man is not autonomous. There are boundaries that have been ordered by the Creator which are to define and govern our existence coram Deo, coram hominibus, and coram mundo. The church has the responsibility before God and before our neighbor to remind and challenge temporal authority to remain faithful to its divine purpose of defining and upholding the boundaries for both Christian believers and unregenerate humankind. Historical insights toward worldview change We must have absolutes and a solid epistemology if our existence is to have meaning, since morals, values, and the basis of knowledge are all derived from ultimate reality and absolutes. Because the reformers did not mix humanism with the formal principle of Scripture aloneP4 they had no problem in deriving meaning for the particulars of reality, truth, morals, and the social location of religion.65 b3Wells, No Place for Truth, 24. ?3chaeffer, How Should? 121. In contrast with the Renaissance humanists, the Reformers refused to accept the autonomy of human reason, which acts as though the human mind is infinite, with all knowledge within its realm. Rather, they took seriously the Bible's own claim for itself - that it is the only final authority." %haeffer, Evangelical Disaster, 309. The Reformation "not only brought forth a clear preaching of the Gospel, it also gave shape to society as a whole-including government, how people viewed the world, and the full spectrum of culture." 270 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY In general, Christian theology is recognizable by the fact that it is based on the great fundamental axiom: God has revealed Himself in the world of space and time. However, this axiom cannot be demonstrated but can only be received through faith; therefore, plain and simple unbelief is the only reason for rejecting it and throwing it asideP6 Furthermore, only regenerate people can truly understand divine truths for Christian theology is the theology of the regenerate. Luther's Model Martin Luther understood the great challenge and necessity of translating the mental stuff that we have received through the teaching office of the church and home and, then, applying these reality-defining truth-claims to the experiences of daily living. For Luther, his evangelical ministry was one of understanding and application. He was taught of God through the activity of the Holy Spirit as he studied the Scriptures so that he might grow in his knowledge of God and acquire a view of reality that was in conformity with God's revealed Luther sought to understand what does this mean as derived from the authoritative and normative truth-claims of Scripture so that he could interpret, explain, and communicate what does this mean for meaningful application within every area of human life. This missiological theory and practice of Martin Luther is the missiological model that must be employed by God's people in this post- Constantinian age. In order to accomplish this we need to understand our own worldview,6' but also that of other people, so that we can first understand and then genuinely communicate with others in a pluralistic society.69 Then, as Christians, we are not only to know the right 66 Newbigin, Nm Era, 92: "There can be no coercive proof that those who believe are right. If there could be, revelation would be unnecessary." 67J. Pelikan and H. Lehmann, editors, Luther's Works: American Edition, 55 volumes (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House and Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955 and following), 34:285-286. Luther's method of understanding and acquiring a Biblical view of reality possessed three elements: oratio, meditatio, tentatio. 68Ronald Nash, World-Views in Conflict (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 14. The most important step for Christians is "to become informed about the Biblical worldview, a comprehensive, systematic view of life and of the world as a whole." %ire, Universe, 15. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 271 worldview but consciously to act upon that worldview so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life.70 The Symbol of Our Time At the time of the Reformation, the reformers wrote "the symbol of our time" when they wrote the first and unaltered Augsburg Confession. The symbol was a correct exposition of the faith, "setting forth how at various times the Holy Scriptures were understood by contemporaries in the church of God with reference to controverted articles, and how contrary teachings were rejected and ~ondemned."~~ The methodology of the reformers, in the construction of their symbol, was to state the issue at hand and, then, proceed to present affirmative theses and contrary antitheses. Those who read the symbol were not left in doubt as to what the reformers were stating to be true, concerning the issues at hand, based upon the normative truth-claims of Scripture. One of the benefits of constructing a "symbol of our time" is that such a symbol would affirm and model a proper way of theological and public discourse in an age whose epistemological method is one of synthesis and not thesis-antithesis. Moreover, such a symbol would also give to God's people solid and biblical answers to the issues of our day so that a relevant message can be communicated and lived out in the public square. At this time in the church's history, if we were to write "the symbol of our time," what are the issues that are confronting our society and our church? What affirmative theses and corresponding antitheses could be formulated concerning these issues based upon a comprehensive exposition of Scripture? The church has the freedom to construct such a symbol in our day. The confessional writings continue to possess ongoing relevance and meaning for our age. However, the world has changed much in five hundred years and there are new issues at hand that must be addressed by the people of God. 70Schaeffer, How Should? 254. 71T. G. Tappert, The Book of Concord (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1959), 465.8. Modern, evangelical insights toward worldview change Lef us be more than a popular, folk religion According to 0s Guinness, "secularization makes the Christian faith seem less real, privatization makes it seem merely a private preference, and pluralization makes it seem just one among many." Unless Christianity is able to break these three chains, it may never be more than a harmless, if popular, folk religion." How can Christianity overcome the losses of comprehensiveness, certainty and compelling power? A Reformational position would begin by examining the Person and work of the Holy Spirit who is no skeptic, but who (1) speaks existent realities (certainty); (2) brings order to chaos and universals to the particulars of human experience (comprehensiveness); and (3) grants power and purpose for daily living through one's vocation and through His abiding presence as Comforter and Counselor (compelling power). Due to the dialectical thinking of Hegel and the existential thinking of Sartre and Camus, modern man has difficulty in making sense of the particulars of existential living. Where is one to find universals which grant meaning and coherence to the particulars of life? For the Christian believer, God has spoken truth concerning Himself and truth concerning man, history, and the universe in a linguistic prepositional form.73 Because this is so, there is unity over the whole field of knowledge. Therefore, on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge and can "know something of both universals and particulars and this includes the meaning and proper use of the particular^."^^ Christian Apologetics Francis Schaeffer offers two purposes for Christian apologetics: (1) the defense of the Christian faith because in every age historic Christianity will be under attack; and (2) we have a responsibility to communicate the gospel in our generation. This kind of Christian apologetic should be thought out and practiced in the rough and tumble of living, in contact 72 Guinness, Gravedigger Files, 161,221. 73Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 100. 74Schaeffer, Pollution, 22. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 273 with the present generation, so that one is conversant with the reality of the questions being asked by his own and the next generation. Then, and only then, will a person be able to communicate the gospel to the present generation in terms75 that they can ~nderstand.~~ Unmasking the Powers From its inception, "the Christian church has been involved in battles involving ideas, theories, systems of thought, presuppositions, and arguments since the witness of the church has always taken place within a pluralistic milieu. Signs of such battles in the world of ideas can be found all through the New Te~tament."~ For Lesslie Newbigin, our Christian witness requires today the unmasking of the powers. "It calls for a new kind of enlightenment, namely the opening up of the underlying assumptions of a pagan society, the asking of the unasked questions, the probing of unrecognized presupposition^."^^ It is plain, writes Newbigin, "that we do not defend the Christian message by domesticating it within the reigning plausibility structure"; instead, it is the business of Christianity to "challenge the plausibility structure in light of God's revelation of the real meaning of history.'n9 Furthermore, it is through its message and communal life, as His people, that they are able to give rise to a new plausibility structure and to "a radically different vision of things from those how shape all human cultures apart from the Gospel. The Church, therefore, as the bearer of the Gospel, inhibits a plausibility structure which is at variance with, and 75Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, in The Complete Works of Francis Schaefer (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1985)."If a person is to really communicate with a people, he must learn another language - that of the thought-forms of the people to whom he speaks" (1:270). "Every generation of Christians has the problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the changing existential situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the Christianfaitheffectively, therefore, we must know and understand the thought-forms of our own generation" (1:207). 76Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 151,153. 77Nash, World-Viaos, 12. 7sNewbigin, The Gospel, 220. 79Newbigin, The Gospel, 10,96. which calls into question, those that govern all human cultures without ex~eption."~~ The model for our ministry is based upon the ministry of our Lord who, in His earthly ministry, unmasked the powers and so drew their hostility on Himself. In a similar manner, "the Spirit working through the life and witness of the missionary church will overturn the world's most fundamental beliefs:' proving the world wrong in respect to sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."82 Removing the roof Every person we speak with has a set of presuppositions- the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. These presuppositions rest on that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. These presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.83 Yet, no matter what a person may believe, he cannot change the reality a of what is. Thus every man, irrespective of his philosophical system, is / caught. Man cannot make his own universe and then live in it; somewhere 1 there is a point, or a series of points, of inconsistency.84 In other words, every man has built a roof over his head to shield himself at the point of tension- the point where a man has reached the 1 end of his presuppositions. The roof is built as a protection against the I blows of the real world, both internal and external. The Christian, ! lovingly, must remove the shelter and allow the truth of the external I world and what man is to beat upon him.s5 ! I When the roof is off, each man must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is. This is what shows him his need and then the Scriptures can show him the real nature of his lostness and the answer. i ''Newbigin, The Gospel, 9. "Lesslie Newbigin, Truth to Tell (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 59-60. We are called to bring our faith into the public arena, to publish it, to put it to risk in the encounter with other faiths and ideologies in open debate and argument. "Newbigin, The Gospel, 107. %khaeffer, How Should? 83. '%chaeffer, God Who Is There, 132-133. 85Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 140. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 275 He must realize that his system of presuppositions has no answer to the crucial questions of life. He must come to know that his roof is false protection against the storm of what is; then we can talk of the storm of the judgment of ~od.8~ When modern man feels dead, he is experiencing what the word of God tells him he is. He is not able to define his deadness or how to solve it, but he knows he is dead. We are to tell him that his death is a moral and spiritual death and of God's An invitation to dogma In the Christian era, "dogma" was a good word. It stood for the blessed gift of certainty and of an assured truth. "Doubt," on the other hand, stood for something evil and harmful. The Enlightenment reversed the roles of the two words. "Doubt" was elevated to a position of honor as the first principle of knowledge. The readiness to question all accepted opinions was the prime condition for arriving at the truth. "Dogma," on the other hand, became a bad word, standing for all that shackles the free exercise of human reason. Yet, doubt does not come out of a vacant mind for "when we undertake to doubt any statement, we do so on the basis of beliefs-in the act of doubting, we do not doubt."" In other words, one can only doubt the truth of a statement on the grounds of other things which one believes to be true.89 Consequently, one must now recognize belief once more as the source of all knowledge. Therefore the church, founded and based on the foundational tenets of faith and Scripture alone, invites the modern and postmodern man to recover a proper acknowledgment of the role of dogma. It is an invitation to the church to be bold in offering to men and women of our culture a way of understanding which makes no claim to be demonstrable in the terms of "modern" '%chaeffer, God Who Is There, 140-141. 87Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 142. "Newbigin, The Gospel, 19. 89Newbigin, Truth to Tell, 29: "You cannot criticize a statement of what claims to be the truth except on the basis of some other truth-claims which you accept without criticism." thought, which is not "scientific" in the popular sense of that word, which is based unashamedly on the revelation of God made in Jesus Christ and attested in Scripture and the tradition of the Church, and which is offered as a fresh starting point for the exploration of the mystery of human existence and for coping with its practical tasks not only in the private and domestic life of the believers but also in the public life of the citizen?' A solid epistemology based upon antithesis According to Hegelian dialectic, the universe is steadily unfolding and so is man's understanding of it with no single proposition about reality reflecting what is true. Instead of thesis and antithesis, truth and moral righteousness will be found in the flow of history, a synthesis of them. Today, not only in philosophy, but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes?' Rational thought as antithesis, however, is rooted in reality because antithesis fits the reality of His existence and the reality of His creation. Moreover, God made our minds to think in the category of antithesis. Therefore, historic Christianity has always stood on the basis of thesis and antithesis and it must cling to the methodology of antithesis - if one thing is true, the opposite is not true; if a thing is right, the opposite is wrongP2 Morality is based upon God's character and will Modern man, in the absence of absolutes, has made moral standards completely hedonistic and relati~istic?~ As a result, every situation is judged subjectively with no absolute to which to appeal. Yet, there must be an absolute if there is to be morals and values for one can never have real values without ab~olutes.9~ Moral absolutes rest upon God's transcendent law which are a concrete expression of His character and will. In verbalized, prepositional form, God has spoken and told us what His character is and His character is the ''Lesslie Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1986), 27. "Schaeffer, How Should? 179. 92Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 184,47. 93Schaeffer, No Little People, 55. 94Schaeffer, Pollution, 15-16. Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 277 opposite of what is relativistic, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever .95 Missioning as bridge-building John Stott, in Between Two Worlds, defines the proclamatory and missionary endeavors of the church through the metaphor of bridge- building: "Now a bridge is a means of communication between two places which would otherwise be cut off from one another by a river or a ravine. It makes possible a flow of traffic which without it would be imp~ssible."~~ The modern church follows in a long succession of bridge-builders. Throughout the history of the church, Christians have tried to relate the biblical message to their particular culturesP7 In the construction of these missiological bridges God's people, as instruments of Missio Dei, have beencalled and enlightened by the Holy Spirit to relate God's unchanging word to our ever changing world. The missionary task is faithfully to translate the word of God into modem language and thought categories and to make it present in our day. This kind of bridge building and missionary encounter is possible since "the One we preach is not Christ-in-a-vacuum, nor a mystical Christ unrelated to the real world, nor even only the Jesus of ancient history, but rather the contemporary Christ who once lived and died, and now lives to meet human need in all its variety today."98 And yet, if we are to build bridges into the real world, and seek to relate the word of God to the major themes of life and the major themes of the day, then "we have to take seriously both the biblical text and the contemporary scene.. .only then shall we discern the connections between them and be able to speak the divine Word to the human situation with any degree of sensitivity and ac~uracy."~~ Stott's model presents a powerful summary of what would be involved in an evangelical encounter between the word of God and modern, 9%haeffer, God Who Is There, 303. 96Stott, Between Two Worlds, 137-138. 97Stott, Between Two Worlds, 139. 98Stott, Between Two Worlds, 149,154. '%tott, Between Two Worlds, 180. Western culture. In order to accomplish this, it demands that God's people commit themselves to a lifetime of studying God's word; studying one's target culture; and discerning and constructing missiological bridges that communicate the apostolic message into the hearts and minds of the receptor because "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Because of the Fall, man has experienced four major separations: (1) separation from God; (2) separation from self; (3) separation from others; and (4) separation from nature. On the basis of the work of Christ, Christianity "has in it the possibility of substantial healings now in every area where there are divisions because of the The Christian community should be a living exhibition of substantial healings and a witness to a fragmented world. In other words, the church ought to be apilot plant where mankind can see in our congregations and missions a substantial healing of all the divisions, the alienations which man's rebellion has produced. Indeed, believes Schaeffer, "unless something like this happens, I do not believe the world will listen to what we have to say."lo1 The concept of cultural framing There is one missiological concept which has enormous significance for the evangelistic outreach of God's people-the concept of cultural framing. According to Paul Hiebert, a cultural frame is a social setting that has its own subculture. In simple tribal societies the number of cultural frames is few and the differences between them minimal. In modern cities, on the other hand, there are many frames, and the differences between them are great. God's people in the modern and postmodern world, both ordained pastors and consecrated laity, walk in many different cultural frames.lo2 loOSchaeffer, Pollution, 39: "First of all, my division from God is healed by justification, but then there must be the 'existential reality' of this moment by moment. Second, there is the psychological division from himself. Third, the sociological divisions of man from other men. And last, the division of man from nature, and nature from nature." lolSchaeffer, Pollution, 47-48. '"uinness, Gravedigger Files, 80: "Worlds which are only minutes apart physically may be light years apart morally or spiritually. A person's life can therefore come to Evangelical Critique of Modern Western Culture 279 Missiologically speaking, how can the body of Christ become engaged in mutually equipping every member in the missionary method of culture learning so that they can discern the contours of the cultural context and communicate a biblical message within its context. Stated in a different way, cultural framing can permit the believer to understand the "atmospheric condition" of the context. Once the context has been understood and evaluated, cultural framing permits a more conscious and intentional communication of the Christian message, by the Christian believer, in that context. Moreover, it would seem that the chief categories of worldview (ultimate and external reality, history, man, truth, ethics) would be a manageable framework in which to know the Christian faith and from which to analyze the contexts in which we walk. Once the Christian believer has discerned the "ground" of the mission context, he or she can winsomely and evangelically communicate the biblical texts to the context through confessional, hermeneutical, and law-gospel understandings and applications. Epilogue Peter Berger, in Against the World For the World, observed that in the sociocultural context of America "there has taken place a widespread loss of transcendence and in which there have been far-reaching accommodations by Christians to this loss." As a result he, along with several of his colleagues at Hartford Seminary, called for "a return to transcendence and for a less accommodating stance by Christians in the contemporary scene."'03 In closing, missiologists speak of the importance of revitalization in a culture that is experiencing demoralization due to acculturation. In order for a revitalization movement to occur, oftenit requires that a reformation or innovation take place so that a new steady state might be achieved. It is my hope that God's people of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod might experience such a reformation by the power of His Spirit and boldly fulfill its mission in this modern and postmodern age. resemble a non-stop process of commuting between almost completely separate, even segregated, worlds." lo3Berger, Against the World, 8-9. May we be good soldiers, then, not flinching at the point of battle but lovingly, joyfully, and evangelically being engaged in scattering the seed of His word realizing that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." May we be good communicators, always being grounded in the word of God and seeking to construct relevant and meaningful bridges into the hearts and minds of the regenerate and the lost. May we construct, by the Spirit's power and activity, caring Christian communities where people are drawn to Jesus Christ as their Savior, nurtured in the Christian faith through the apostles' teaching, fellowship, prayer, and equipped for works of Christian service on the mission frontier. May we, as did Luther, always realize that the sovereign Lord is working in His world according to His timing. As modern men and women struggle coram Deo, may we be sensitive to the Lord's working like Philip was with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) so that a timely interpretationof life might be shared which permits the receptor to "make sense" of his relationship to God and to humankind. Finally, may we be bearers of Good News to an age that has experienced the loss of certainty, comprehensiveness, and compelling power. May the Lord bless us in this task of laying solid Christological foundations and building relevant, missiological bridges into this fragmented world. May the false believer find salvation and meaning in Him alone.