Culture Wars

Ronald Reagan was the antichrist.

Barack Obama is conducting a war against Christianity.

Anyone who believes humans are causing global warming is a left-wing, socialist, environmental wacko.

Anyone who doesn’t believe humans are causing global warming is an ignoramus.

Christians who accept an old Earth or evolution are either dangerous compromisors, or maybe not Christians at all.

Young-Earth creationists are just plain stupid.

I’ve heard all of these, and much more, from Christians.

I get weary of the “culture wars” that pervade much of our society and the Christian church, whether in politics, the environment, origins (creation and evolution), or even theology.

What I get tired of is not the debate—I have strong thoughts on some of these issues—but the level of acrimony and demonization that characterizes much of the debate, even among Christians.

It is good to be passionate and zealous, as long as we are passionate and zealous about things that are primary, rather than secondary or tertiary in importance, and that we play by Biblical rules of integrity, love, and humility.

C. John Collins has a good section on “culture wars” in Chapter 20 of Science & Faith: Friends or Foes:

 It’s pretty common to hear that we’re in a culture war—the traditionalists and the secularists are fighting over who will control the culture. There is a sense in which the image is right: as we will see in the next chapter, there are worldviews that are at odds with each other, and therefore it’s no surprise that we find conflict. The image is a dangerous one, though, because it can lead us to look at everything in combatant terms: people who disagree with us become our enemies, and we have to defeat them. If you are my enemy, and I am a Christian, then—even if you’re a Christian too—you must be morally defective.

Three further dangers follow from this warfare imagery. The first is that we can forget that worldviews involve not just philosophical positions but also moral commitments; and that back behind unbelief there lies a demonic enslaver. As Paul put it in Ephesians 6,

12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18[Pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

There is a spiritual component to this battle; and therefore, all our intellectual efforts must express our faithfulness to Christ and must be bathed in prayer. We must never use the weapons of unbelief—dishonesty, slander, name-calling, and so on. The second danger, related to the first, is that we can forget that the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for: that is, the purpose of all this is to free people from their slavery to the Devil. The third danger that arises is that we can forget that any Christian—and any Christian church—always has only a partial grasp of a fully Christian worldview; and even those parts that we grasp rightly, we practice only partly. So some of our “warfare” ought to be against our own imperfections!

The warfare image is a biblical one, to be sure; but we will do well to be careful how we use it.

[bold emphasis added]

I will be passionate and zealous about things that I believe are both true and of supreme importance, such as the existence of God, the sinfulness of Man, and in Jesus Christ as the only bridge between man and God. Many of these “primary” things of life are expressed in the ancient creeds of the Church.

I will also be passionate and zealous about some secondary issues—such as the age of the Earth, the importance of good stewardship of the Earth, political conservatism that embraces things worth conserving (Earth, family) rather than propping up greed—though my level of enthusiasm will vary from topic to topic.

I will try to discern what is primary, and what is secondary. I will fail at this sometimes.

I will not demonize you or hate you if you differ from me. In fact, I cherish diversity in these areas, and am enriched not only by those with whom I agree, but also by those with whom I differ.

Grace and Peace.